Machine Learning Papers: Immunology

Attention mechanism-based deep learning pan-specific model for interpretable MHC-I peptide binding prediction - Jin et al 2019

Accurate prediction of peptide binding affinity to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins has the potential to design better therapeutic vaccines. Previous work has shown that pan-specific prediction algorithms can achieve better prediction performance than other approaches. However, most of the top algorithms are neural networks based black box models. Here, we propose DeepAttentionPan, an improved pan-specific model, based on convolutional neural networks and attention mechanisms for more flexible, stable and interpretable MHC-I binding prediction. With the attention mechanism, our ensemble model consisting of 20 trained networks achieves high and more stabilized prediction performance. Extensive tests on IEDB’s weekly benchmark dataset show that our method achieves state-of-the-art prediction performance on 21 test allele datasets. Analysis of the peptide positional attention weights learned by our model demonstrates its capability to capture critical binding positions of the peptides, which leads to mechanistic understanding of MHC-peptide binding with high alignment with experimentally verified results. Furthermore, we show that with transfer learning, our pan model can be fine-tuned for alleles with few samples to achieve additional performance improvement. DeepAttentionPan is freely available as an open source software at

MHCflurry: Open-Source Class I MHC Binding Affinity Prediction - O'Donnell et al 2018

Predicting the binding affinity of major histocompatibility complex I (MHC I) proteins and their peptide ligands is important for vaccine design. We introduce an open-source package for MHC I binding prediction, MHCflurry. The software implements allele-specific neural networks that use a novel architecture and peptide encoding scheme. When trained on affinity measurements, MHCflurry outperformed the standard predictors NetMHC 4.0 and NetMHCpan 3.0 overall and particularly on non-9-mer peptides in a benchmark of ligands identified by mass spectrometry. The released predictor, MHCflurry 1.2.0, uses mass spectrometry datasets for model selection and showed competitive accuracy with standard tools, including the recently released NetMHCpan 4.0, on a small benchmark of affinity measurements. MHCflurry’s prediction speed exceeded 7,000 predictions per second, 396 times faster than NetMHCpan 4.0. MHCflurry is freely available to use, retrain, or extend, includes Python library and command line interfaces, may be installed using package managers, and applies software development best practices.

NetMHCpan-4.0: Improved Peptide-MHC Class I Interaction Predictions Integrating Eluted Ligand and Peptide Binding Affinity Data - Jurtz et al 2017

Cytotoxic T cells are of central importance in the immune system’s response to disease. They recognize defective cells by binding to peptides presented on the cell surface by MHC class I molecules. Peptide binding to MHC molecules is the single most selective step in the Ag-presentation pathway. Therefore, in the quest for T cell epitopes, the prediction of peptide binding to MHC molecules has attracted widespread attention. In the past, predictors of peptide-MHC interactions have primarily been trained on binding affinity data. Recently, an increasing number of MHC-presented peptides identified by mass spectrometry have been reported containing information about peptide-processing steps in the presentation pathway and the length distribution of naturally presented peptides. In this article, we present NetMHCpan-4.0, a method trained on binding affinity and eluted ligand data leveraging the information from both data types. Large-scale benchmarking of the method demonstrates an increase in predictive performance compared with state-of-the-art methods when it comes to identification of naturally processed ligands, cancer neoantigens, and T cell epitopes.

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