Publication Details (including relevant citation information):
Amit Kumar Yadav, Dhirendra Kumar, Debasis Dash (2012) Learning from Decoys to Improve the Sensitivity and Specificity of Proteomics Database Search Results. PLoS ONE 7(11): e50651. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050651
The statistical validation of database search results is a complex issue in bottom-up proteomics. The correct and incorrect peptide spectrum match (PSM) scores overlap significantly, making an accurate assessment of true peptide matches challenging. Since the complete separation between the true and false hits is practically never achieved, there is need for better methods and rescoring algorithms to improve upon the primary database search results. Here we describe the calibration and False Discovery Rate (FDR) estimation of database search scores through a dynamic FDR calculation method, FlexiFDR, which increases both the sensitivity and specificity of search results. Modelling a simple linear regression on the decoy hits for different charge states, the method maximized the number of true positives and reduced the number of false negatives in several standard datasets of varying complexity (18-mix, 49-mix, 200-mix) and few complex datasets (E. coli and Yeast) obtained from a wide variety of MS platforms. The net positive gain for correct spectral and peptide identifications was up to 14.81% and 6.2% respectively. The approach is applicable to different search methodologies- separate as well as concatenated database search, high mass accuracy, and semi-tryptic and modification searches. FlexiFDR was also applied to Mascot results and showed better performance than before. We have shown that appropriate threshold learnt from decoys, can be very effective in improving the database search results. FlexiFDR adapts itself to different instruments, data types and MS platforms. It learns from the decoy hits and sets a flexible threshold that automatically aligns itself to the underlying variables of data quality and size.