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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

A sampling framework for incorporating quantitative mass spectrometry data in protein interaction analysis

George Tucker, Po-Ru Loh and Bonnie Berger*

Author Affiliations

Mathematics Department and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14:299  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-299

Published: 4 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Comprehensive protein-protein interaction (PPI) maps are a powerful resource for uncovering the molecular basis of genetic interactions and providing mechanistic insights. Over the past decade, high-throughput experimental techniques have been developed to generate PPI maps at proteome scale, first using yeast two-hybrid approaches and more recently via affinity purification combined with mass spectrometry (AP-MS). Unfortunately, data from both protocols are prone to both high false positive and false negative rates. To address these issues, many methods have been developed to post-process raw PPI data. However, with few exceptions, these methods only analyze binary experimental data (in which each potential interaction tested is deemed either observed or unobserved), neglecting quantitative information available from AP-MS such as spectral counts.

Results

We propose a novel method for incorporating quantitative information from AP-MS data into existing PPI inference methods that analyze binary interaction data. Our approach introduces a probabilistic framework that models the statistical noise inherent in observations of co-purifications. Using a sampling-based approach, we model the uncertainty of interactions with low spectral counts by generating an ensemble of possible alternative experimental outcomes. We then apply the existing method of choice to each alternative outcome and aggregate results over the ensemble. We validate our approach on three recent AP-MS data sets and demonstrate performance comparable to or better than state-of-the-art methods. Additionally, we provide an in-depth discussion comparing the theoretical bases of existing approaches and identify common aspects that may be key to their performance.

Conclusions

Our sampling framework extends the existing body of work on PPI analysis using binary interaction data to apply to the richer quantitative data now commonly available through AP-MS assays. This framework is quite general, and many enhancements are likely possible. Fruitful future directions may include investigating more sophisticated schemes for converting spectral counts to probabilities and applying the framework to direct protein complex prediction methods.