Accurate estimation of context-dependent false discovery rates in top-down proteomics

Richard D. LeDuc, Ryan T. Fellers, Bryan P. Early, Joseph B. Greer, Daniel P. Shams, Paul M. Thomas, Neil L. Kelleher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Within the last several years, top-down proteomics has emerged as a high throughput technique for protein and proteoform identification. This technique has the potential to identify and characterize thousands of proteoforms within a single study, but the absence of accurate false discovery rate (FDR) estimation could hinder the adoption and consistency of top-down proteomics in the future. In automated identification and characterization of proteoforms, FDR calculation strongly depends on the context of the search. The context includes MS data quality, the database being interrogated, the search engine, and the parameters of the search. Particular to top-down proteomics-there are four molecular levels of study: proteoform spectral match (PrSM), protein, isoform, and proteoform. Here, a context-dependent framework for calculating an accurate FDR at each level was designed, implemented, and validated against a manually curated training set with 546 confirmed proteoforms. We examined several search contexts and found that an FDR calculated at the PrSM level under-reported the true FDR at the protein level by an average of 24-fold. We present a new open-source tool, the TDCD FDR Calculator, which provides a scalable, context-dependent FDR calculation that can be applied post-search to enhance the quality of results in top-down proteomics from any search engine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-805
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Accurate estimation of context-dependent false discovery rates in top-down proteomics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this