Statistics and Its Interface

Volume 5 (2012)

Number 1

Analyzing LC-MS/MS data by spectral count and ion abundance: two case studies

Pages: 75 – 87



Thomas I. Milac (Department of Pharmacology, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., U.S.A.)

Timothy W. Randolph (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash., U.S.A.)

Pei Wang (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash., U.S.A.)


In comparative proteomics studies, LC-MS/MS data is generally quantified using one or both of two measures: the spectral count, derived from the identification of MS/MS spectra, or some measure of ion abundance derived from the LC-MS data. Here we contrast the performance of these measures and show that ion abundance is the more sensitive. We also examine how the conclusions of a comparative analysis are influenced by the manner in which the LC-MS/MS data is ‘rolled up’ to the protein level, and show that divergent conclusions obtained using different rollups can be informative. Our analysis is based on two publicly available reference data sets, BIATECH-54 and CPTAC, which were developed for the purpose of assessing methods used in label-free differential proteomic studies. We find that the use of the ion abundance measure reveals properties of both data sets not readily apparent using the spectral count.


mass spectrometry, comparative proteomics, ion abundance, spectral count, ion competition

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

Primary 62P10. Secondary 92D20.

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