Method to correlate tandem mass spectra of modified peptides to amino acid sequences in the protein database

Anal Chem. 1995 Apr 15;67(8):1426-36. doi: 10.1021/ac00104a020.


A method to correlate uninterpreted tandem mass spectra of modified peptides, produced under low-energy (10-50 eV) collision conditions, with amino acid sequences in a protein database has been developed. The fragmentation patterns observed in the tandem mass spectra of peptides containing covalent modifications is used to directly search and fit linear amino acid sequences in the database. Specific information relevant to sites of modification is not contained in the character-based sequence information of the databases. The search method considers each putative modification site as both modified and unmodified in one pass through the database and simultaneously considers up to three different sites of modification. The search method will identify the correct sequence if the tandem mass spectrum did not represent a modified peptide. This approach is demonstrated with peptides containing modifications such as S-carboxymethylated cysteine, oxidized methionine, phosphoserine, phosphothreonine, or phosphotyrosine. In addition, a scanning approach is used in which neutral loss scans are used to initiate the acquisition of product ion MS/MS spectra of doubly charged phosphorylated peptides during a single chromatographic run for data analysis with the database-searching algorithm. The approach described in this paper provides a convenient method to match the nascent tandem mass spectra of modified peptides to sequences in a protein database and thereby identify previously unknown sites of modification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amino Acid Sequence*
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Mass Spectrometry*
  • Methionine / chemistry
  • Methylation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational


  • Peptides
  • Methionine
  • Cysteine