Cleaning of raw peptide MS/MS spectra: Improved protein identification following deconvolution of multiply charged peaks, isotope clusters, and removal of background noise



The dominant ions in MS/MS spectra of peptides, which have been fragmented by low-energy CID, are often b-, y-ions and their derivatives resulting from the cleavage of the peptide bonds. However, MS/MS spectra typically contain many more peaks. These can result not only from isotope variants and multiply charged replicates of the peptide fragmentation products but also from unknown fragmentation pathways, sample-specific or systematic chemical contaminations or from noise generated by the electronic detection system. The presence of this background complicates spectrum interpretation. Besides dramatically prolonged computation time, it can lead to incorrect protein identification, especially in the case of de novo sequencing algorithms. Here, we present an algorithm for detection and transformation of multiply charged peaks into singly charged monoisotopic peaks, removal of heavy isotope replicates, and random noise. A quantitative criterion for the recognition of some noninterpretable spectra has been derived as a byproduct. The approach is based on numerical spectral analysis and signal detection methods. The algorithm has been implemented in a stand-alone computer program called MS Cleaner that can be obtained from the authors upon request.