Highly Accurate Chemical Formula Prediction Tool Utilizing High-Resolution Mass Spectra, MS/MS Fragmentation, Heuristic Rules, and Isotope Pattern Matching
Mass spectrometry is commonly applied to qualitatively and quantitatively profile small molecules, such as peptides, metabolites, or lipids. Modern mass spectrometers provide accurate measurements of mass-to-charge ratios of ions, with errors as low as 1 ppm. Even such high mass accuracy, however, is not sufficient to determine the unique chemical formula of each ion, and additional algorithms are necessary. Here we present a universal software tool for predicting chemical formulas from high-resolution mass spectrometry data, developed within the MZmine 2 framework. The tool is based on the use of a combination of heuristic techniques, including MS/MS fragmentation analysis and isotope pattern matching. The performance of the tool was evaluated using a real metabolomic data set obtained with the Orbitrap MS detector. The true formula was correctly determined as the highest-ranking candidate for 79% of the tested compounds. The novel isotope pattern-scoring algorithm outperformed a previously published method in 64% of the tested Orbitrap spectra. The software described in this manuscript is freely available and its source code can be accessed within the MZmine 2 source code repository.