A universal algorithm for fast and automated charge state deconvolution of electrospray mass-to-charge ratio spectra

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 1998 Mar;9(3):225-33. doi: 10.1016/S1044-0305(97)00284-5.


This article describes a new algorithm for charge state determination and deconvolution of electrospray ionization (ESI) mass-to-charge ratio spectra. The algorithm (ZSCORE) is based on a charge scoring scheme that incorporates all above-threshold members of a family of charge states or isotopic components, and deconvolves both low- and high-resolution mass-to-charge ratio spectra, with or without a peak list (stick plot). A scoring weight factor, log (I/I0), in which I is the signal magnitude at a calculated mass-to-charge ratio, and I0 is the signal threshold near that mass-to-charge ratio, was used in most cases. For high-resolution mass-to-charge ratio spectra in which all isotopic peaks are resolved, the algorithm can deconvolve overlapped isotopic multiplets of the same or different charge state. Compared to other deconvolution techniques, the algorithm is robust, rapid, and fully automated (i.e., no user input during the deconvolution process). It eliminates artifact peaks without introducing peak distortions. Its performance is demonstrated for experimental ESI Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass-to-charge ratio spectra (both low and high resolution). Charge state deconvolution to yield a "zero-charge" mass spectrum should prove particularly useful for interpreting spectra of complex mixtures, identifying contaminants, noncovalent adducts, fragments (N-terminal, C-terminal, internal), and chemical modifications of electrosprayed biomacromolecules.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Mass Spectrometry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Proteins