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Ammar, Constantin; Gruber, Markus; Csaba, Gergely and Zimmer, Ralf (2019): MS-EmpiRe Utilizes Peptide-level Noise Distributions for Ultra-sensitive Detection of Differentially Expressed Proteins. In: Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, Vol. 18, No. 9: pp. 1880-1892

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Mass spectrometry based proteomics is the method of choice for quantifying genome-wide differential changes of protein expression in a wide range of biological and biomedical applications. Protein expression changes need to be reliably derived from many measured peptide intensities and their corresponding peptide fold changes. These peptide fold changes vary considerably for a given protein. Numerous instrumental setups aim to reduce this variability, whereas current computational methods only implicitly account for this problem. We introduce a new method, MS-EmpiRe, which explicitly accounts for the noise underlying peptide fold changes. We derive data set-specific, intensity-dependent empirical error fold change distributions, which are used for individual weighing of peptide fold changes to detect differentially expressed proteins (DEPs). In a recently published proteome-wide benchmarking data set, MS-EmpiRe doubles the number of correctly identified DEPs at an estimated FDR cutoff compared with state-of-the-art tools. We additionally confirm the superior performance of MS-EmpiRe on simulated data. MS-EmpiRe requires only peptide intensities mapped to proteins and, thus, can be applied to any common quantitative proteomics setup. We apply our method to diverse MS data sets and observe consistent increases in sensitivity with more than 1000 additional significant proteins in deep data sets, including a clinical study over multiple patients. At the same time, we observe that even the proteins classified as most insignificant by other methods but significant by MS-EmpiRe show very clear regulation on the peptide intensity level. MS-EmpiRe provides rapid processing (< 2 min for 6 LC-MS/MS runs (3 h gradients)) and is publicly available under github.com/zimmerlab/MS-EmpiRe with a manual including examples.

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