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LC-MS/MS has demonstrated potential for detecting plant pathogens. Unlike PCR or ELISA, LC-MS/MS does not require pathogen-specific reagents for the detection of pathogen-specific proteins and peptides. However, the MS/MS approach we and others have explored does require a protein sequence reference database and database-search software to interpret tandem mass spectra. To evaluate the limitations of database composition on pathogen identification, we analyzed proteins from cultured Ustilago maydis, Phytophthora sojae, Fusarium graminearum, and Rhizoctonia solani by LC-MS/MS. When the search database did not contain sequences for a target pathogen, or contained sequences to related pathogens, target pathogen spectra were reliably matched to protein sequences from nontarget organisms, giving an illusion that proteins from nontarget organisms were identified. Our analysis demonstrates that when database-search software is used as part of the identification process, a paradox exists whereby additional sequences needed to detect a wide variety of possible organisms may lead to more cross-species protein matches and misidentification of pathogens.