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MoMo: Discovery of statistically significant post-translational modification motifs

By Alice Cheng, Charles E Grant, William S Noble, Timothy L Bailey

Posted 06 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/410050 (published DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/bty1058)

Motivation: Post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins are associated with many significant biological functions and can be identified in high throughput using tandem mass spectrometry. Many PTMs are associated with short sequence patterns called "motifs" that help localize the modifying enzyme. Accordingly, many algorithms have been designed to identify these motifs from mass spectrometry data. Accurate statistical confidence estimates for discovered motifs are critically important for proper interpretation and in the design of downstream experimental validation. Results: We describe a method for assigning statistical confidence estimates to PTM motifs, and we demonstrate that this method provides accurate p-values on both simulated and real data. Our methods are implemented in MoMo, a software tool for discovering motifs among sets of PTMs that we make available as a web server and as downloadable source code. MoMo reimplements the two most widely used PTM motif discovery algorithms--motif-x and MoDL--while offering many enhancements. Relative to motif-x, MoMo offers improved statistical confidence estimates and more accurate calculation of motif scores. The MoMo web server offers more proteome databases, more input formats, larger inputs and longer running times than the motif-x web server. Finally, our study demonstrates that the confidence estimates produced by motif-x are inaccurate. This inaccuracy stems in part from the common practice of drawing "background" peptides from an unshuffled proteome database. Our results thus suggest that many of the hundreds of papers that use motif-x to find motifs may be reporting results that lack statistical support. Availability: http://meme-suite.org Contact: timothybailey@unr.edu

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