Poisson Model to Generate Isotope Distribution for Biomolecules

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13 Scopus citations


We introduce a simplified computational algorithm for computing isotope distributions (relative abundances and masses) of biomolecules. The algorithm is based on Poisson approximation to binomial and multinomial distributions. It leads to a small number of arithmetic operations to compute isotope distributions of molecules. The approach uses three embedded loops to compute the isotope distributions, as compared with the eight embedded loops in exact calculations. The speed improvement is about 3-fold compared to the fast Fourier transformation-based isotope calculations, often termed as ultrafast isotope calculation. The approach naturally incorporates the determination of the masses of each molecular isotopomer. It is applicable to high mass accuracy and resolution mass spectrometry data. The application to tryptic peptides in a UniProt protein database revealed that the mass accuracy of the computed isotopomers is better than 1 ppm. Even better mass accuracy (below 1 ppm) is achievable when the method is paired with the exact calculations, which we term a hybrid approach. The algorithms have been implemented in a freely available C/C++ code.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-758
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2018


  • Poisson distribution
  • isotope envelope
  • mass spectrometry
  • stable isotope labeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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