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ZODIAC: database-independent molecular formula annotation using Gibbs sampling reveals unknown small molecules

By Marcus Ludwig, Louis Felix Nothias, Kai Dührkop, Irina Koester, Markus Fleischauer, Martin A. Hoffmann, Daniel Petras, Fernando Vargas, Mustafa Morsy, Lihini Aluwihare, Pieter C. Dorrestein, Sebastian Böcker

Posted 16 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/842740

The confident high-throughput identification of small molecules remains one of the most challenging tasks in mass spectrometry-based metabolomics. SIRIUS has become a powerful tool for the interpretation of tandem mass spectra, and shows outstanding performance for identifying the molecular formula of a query compound, being the first step of structure identification. Nevertheless, the identification of both molecular formulas for large compounds above 500 Daltons and novel molecular formulas remains highly challenging. Here, we present ZODIAC, a network-based algorithm for the de novo estimation of molecular formulas. ZODIAC reranks SIRIUS' molecular formula candidates, combining fragmentation tree computation with Bayesian statistics using Gibbs sampling. Through careful algorithm engineering, ZODIAC's Gibbs sampling is very swift in practice. ZODIAC decreases incorrect annotations 16.2-fold on a challenging plant extract dataset with most compounds above 700 Dalton; we then show improvements on four additional, diverse datasets. Our analysis led to the discovery of compounds with novel molecular formulas such as C24H47BrNO8P which, as of today, is not present in any publicly available molecular structure databases.

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