Label-free quantification (LFQ) with a specific and sequentially integrated workflow of acquisition technique, quantification tool and processing method has emerged as the popular technique employed in metaproteomic research to provide a comprehensive landscape of the adaptive response of microbes to external stimuli and their interactions with other organisms or host cells. The performance of a specific LFQ workflow is highly dependent on the studied data. Hence, it is essential to discover the most appropriate one for a specific data set. However, it is challenging to perform such discovery due to the large number of possible workflows and the multifaceted nature of the evaluation criteria. Herein, a web server ANPELA (https://idrblab.org/anpela/) was developed and validated as the first tool enabling performance assessment of whole LFQ workflow (collective assessment by five well-established criteria with distinct underlying theories), and it enabled the identification of the optimal LFQ workflow(s) by a comprehensive performance ranking. ANPELA not only automatically detects the diverse formats of data generated by all quantification tools but also provides the most complete set of processing methods among the available web servers and stand-alone tools. Systematic validation using metaproteomic benchmarks revealed ANPELA's capabilities in 1 discovering well-performing workflow(s), (2) enabling assessment from multiple perspectives and (3) validating LFQ accuracy using spiked proteins. ANPELA has a unique ability to evaluate the performance of whole LFQ workflow and enables the discovery of the optimal LFQs by the comprehensive performance ranking of all 560 workflows. Therefore, it has great potential for applications in metaproteomic and other studies requiring LFQ techniques, as many features are shared among proteomic studies.
Keywords: LFQ workflow; label-free quantification; metaproteomics; microbiota; performance assessment.
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