Peptides are identified from a list of candidates using collision-induced dissociation tandem mass spectrometry data. A probabilistic model for the occurrence of spectral peaks corresponding to frequently observed partial peptide fragment ions is applied. As part of the identification procedure, a probability score is produced that indicates the likelihood of any given candidate being the correct match. The statistical significance of the score is known without necessarily having reference to the actual identity of the peptide. In one form of the invention, a genetic algorithm is applied to candidate peptides using an objective function that takes into account the number of shifted peaks appearing in the candidate spectrum relative to the test spectrum.
 This invention was made with Government support under Contract DE-AC06-76RL01830, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States Government may have certain rights in the invention.