Deep-Learning-Derived Evaluation Metrics Enable Effective Benchmarking of Computational Tools for Phosphopeptide Identification

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2021:20:100171. doi: 10.1016/j.mcpro.2021.100171. Epub 2021 Nov 1.


Tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS)-based phosphoproteomics is a powerful technology for global phosphorylation analysis. However, applying four computational pipelines to a typical mass spectrometry (MS)-based phosphoproteomic dataset from a human cancer study, we observed a large discrepancy among the reported phosphopeptide identification and phosphosite localization results, underscoring a critical need for benchmarking. While efforts have been made to compare performance of computational pipelines using data from synthetic phosphopeptides, evaluations involving real application data have been largely limited to comparing the numbers of phosphopeptide identifications due to the lack of appropriate evaluation metrics. We investigated three deep-learning-derived features as potential evaluation metrics: phosphosite probability, Delta RT, and spectral similarity. Predicted phosphosite probability is computed by MusiteDeep, which provides high accuracy as previously reported; Delta RT is defined as the absolute retention time (RT) difference between RTs observed and predicted by AutoRT; and spectral similarity is defined as the Pearson's correlation coefficient between spectra observed and predicted by pDeep2. Using a synthetic peptide dataset, we found that both Delta RT and spectral similarity provided excellent discrimination between correct and incorrect peptide-spectrum matches (PSMs) both when incorrect PSMs involved wrong peptide sequences and even when incorrect PSMs were caused by only incorrect phosphosite localization. Based on these results, we used all the three deep-learning-derived features as evaluation metrics to compare different computational pipelines on diverse set of phosphoproteomic datasets and showed their utility in benchmarking performance of the pipelines. The benchmark metrics demonstrated in this study will enable users to select computational pipelines and parameters for routine analysis of phosphoproteomics data and will offer guidance for developers to improve computational methods.

Keywords: Benchmark; deep learning; phosphopeptide identification; phosphoproteomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benchmarking
  • Cell Line
  • Deep Learning*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phosphopeptides / analysis*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteomics / methods


  • Phosphopeptides