In a bottom-up shotgun approach, the proteins of a mixture are enzymatically digested, separated, and analyzed via tandem mass spectrometry. The mass spectra relating fragment ion intensities (abundance) to the mass-tocharge are used to deduce the amino acid sequence and identify the peptides and proteins. The variables that influence intensity were characterized using a multi-factorial mixed-effects model, a ten-fold cross-validation, and stepwise feature selection on 6,352,528 fragment ions from 61,543 peptide ions. Intensity was higher in fragment ions that did not have neutral mass loss relative to any mass loss or that had a +1 charge state. Peptide ions classified for proton mobility as non-mobile had lowest intensity of all mobility levels. Higher basic residue (arginine, lysine or histidine) counts in the peptide ion and low counts in the fragment ion were associated with lower fragment ion intensities. Higher counts of proline in peptide and fragment ions were associated with lower intensities. These results are consistent with the mobile proton theory. Opposite trends between peptide and fragment ion counts and intensity may be due to the different impact of factor under consideration at different stages of the MS/MS experiment or to the different distribution of observations across peptide and fragment ion levels. Presence of basic residues at all three positions next to the fragmentation site was associated with lower fragment ion intensity. The presence of proline proximal to the fragmentation site enhanced fragmentation and had the opposite trend when located distant from the site. A positive association between fragment ion intensity and presence of sulfur residues (cysteine and methionine) on the vicinity of the fragmentation site was identified. These results highlight the multi-factorial nature of fragment ion intensity and could improve the algorithms for peptide identification and the simulation in tandem mass spectrometry experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Proteomics and Bioinformatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Fragment ion
  • MS/MS
  • Neutral mass loss
  • Peptide ion
  • Proline
  • Proton mobility
  • Stepwise selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications


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