Engineering, 2013, 5, 513-517 Published Online October 2013 (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
Prediction of Peptides Binding to Major Histocompatibility
Class II Molecules Using Machine Learning Methods
Fateme Kazemi Faramarzi, Majid Mohammad Beigi, Yasamin Botorabi, Najme Mousavi
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran
Received 2013
In daily life, we are frequently attacked by infection organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Major Histocompatibility
(MHC) molecules have an essential role in T-cell activation and initiating an adaptive immune response. Development
of methods for prediction of MHC-Peptide binding is important in vaccine design and immunotherapy. In this study, we
try to predict the binding between peptides and MHC class II. Support vector machine (SVM) and Multi-Layer Percep-
tron (MLP) are used for classification. These classifiers based on pseudo amino acid compositions of data that we ex-
tracted from PseAAC server, classify the data. Since, the dataset, used in this work, is imbalanced, we apply a pre-
processing step to over-sample the minority class and come over this problem. The results show that using the concept
of pseudo amino acid composition and applying over-sampling method, increases the performance of predictor. Fur-
thermore, the results demonstrate that using the concept of Pse AAC and SVM is a successful method for the prediction
of MHC class II molecules.
Keywords: MHC Class II; Imbalanced Data; SMOTE; SVM
1. Introduction
Major Histocompatibility (MHC) molecules play a sig-
nificant role in graft rejection and T-cell activation.
Binding between the antigenic peptide and the MHC
molecule is a necessary prerequisite for recognition of
antigens by the T cells and initiating an adaptive immune
response [1]. But, all the peptides cannot bind and only
some of them can bind to MHC molecules. Prediction of
which peptides can bind to MHC molecules is important
to understanding the immune system response. The pep-
tide that can bind to MHC and causes an immune re-
sponse is called T-cell epitope.
Antigen processing and presentation take place by
MHC class I and MHC class II pathways. It is clear that
development of machine learning methods to predict the
epitopes can reduce the number of the high-cost assay
needed to identify T-cell epitopes. This prediction is im-
portant for vaccine design and immunotherapy for dis-
eases such as cancer [2].
In this study, we use two machine learning methods to
predict the binding between peptide and MHC class II
molecule and apply these methods on the HLA-DRB1*
0301 data.
For machine learning approaches we need to extract
features from amino acid sequences. Different computa-
tional methods were introduced for this purpose. One of
them is Composition-Transition-Distribution (CTD). In
this method, in order to apply machine learning method,
peptides with different-lengths are mapped to fixed
lengths [3]. Another proposed method is k-spectrum
kernel. If the similarity between two sequences is high,
these sequences have a great k-spectrum kernel value.
This means that the y have many common k-mer subse-
quences [4]. In another work, the Local Alignment (LA)
kernel was suggested for prediction. In this method, local
alignment with gaps is applied to sequences and a score
is obtained. This score is used to measure the similarity
between these sequences [5].
In this work, we calculate the pseudo amino acid com-
positions [6] for peptides using PseAAC server and then
classify the peptides based on these extracted features.
For the imbalanced dataset problem, we apply a pre-
processing step to balance the data distribution. For this
purpose we use Synthetic Minority Over-sampling Tech-
nique (SMOTE). Also, Multi-Layer Perceptron (ML P)
and Support Vector Machine (SVM) are used for the
classification task. The results are compared with pre-
vious results in [7]. In order to implement these methods,
Weka machine learning workbench is used (www. Figure 1 shows the significant steps in
our approach.
The reminder sections are organized as follow, Section
II describes the related techniq u es for our approach ,
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
Figure 1. Block diagram of the proposed approach.
Section III contains the brief information about dataset
that are used in this study. Section IV contains the results
and describes evaluation p arameters. The conclusion is
presented in Section V.
2. Method
2.1. Generating Chou’s PseAAC
To extract features from protein sequences and to avoid
losing much important information hidden in protein
sequences, Chou’s PseAA C was proposed to replace the
simple amino acid composition (AAC), the frequency of
each amino acid within a protein, for representing the
sample of a protein. For a summary about its new devel-
opment and applications, such as how to use the concept
of Chou’s PseAAC to incorporate the functional domain
information, GO (gene ontology) information, and se-
quential evolution information, among many others, see a
recent comprehensive review [8]. PseAAC is a flexible
web server for generating various kinds of protein pseu-
do amino acid composition, which is available at http:// PseAAC of a gi-
ven protein sample is represented by a set of more than
20 discrete factors, where the first 20 factors represent
the components of its conventional AAC whereas the
additional factors incorporate some of its sequence order
information via various modes. Typically, these addi-
tional factors are a ser ies of rank-different correlation
factors along a protein chain, but they can also be any
combination of other factors as long as they can reflect
some sort of sequence order effects one way or the other.
Three different types of parameters are often used to ge-
nerate various kinds of PseAAC: quantitative characters
of AAs, weight factor and rank of correlation.
The following six AA characters are supported by
PseAAC server to calculate the correlations between
amino acids at different positions along the protein chain:
(1) hydrophobicity, (2) hydrophilicity, (3) side chain
mass, (4) pK1 (alpha-COOH), (5) pK2 (NH3) and (6) pI.
The user can select any characters or combinations of
characters as part of the input. The weight factor is de-
signed for the user to put weight on the additional PseAA
components with respect to the conventional AA com-
ponents. The user can select any value within the region
from 0.05 to 0.70 for the weight factor. The counted rank
(or tier) of the correlation along a protein sequence is
represented by λ [9]. Calculations by PseA AC s erver for
all six characters and their binary and ternary combina-
tions have been considered (Table 1).
2.2. SVM
SVMs, an algorithm for the classification of both linear
and nonlinear data, map the original data into a higher
dimension, where we can find a hyper plane as a discri-
minant function for the separation of data using some
instances called support vector. This discriminant func-
tion is represented as a linear function in feature space in
the form of f(x) = wTϕ(x) for some weight vector wF.
Given a training set of instance-label pairs (xi, yi), i =
1,2,3,…,l where xi Rn and yi {1, 1}, to map the
input data samples xi into a higher dimensional feature
space ϕ(xi), a set of nonlinearly separable problem is
solved. The classical maximum margin SVM classifier
Table 1. Different combination of six characters as features.
NO. Character(s) NO. Character(s)
1 Hydrophobicity 22
Hydrophobicity and
Hydrophilicity and Mass
2 Hydrophilicity 23
Hydrophobicity and
Hydrophilicity and Pk1
3 Mass 24 Hydrophobicit y and
Hydrophilicity and Pk2
4 Pk1 25
Hydrophobicity and
Hydrophilicity and PI
5 Pk2 26
Hydrophobicity and
Mass and Pk1
6 PI 27
Hydrophobicity and
Mass and Pk2
Hydrophobicity and
Hydrophobicity and
Mass and PI
8 Hydrophobicity and
Mass 29 Hydrophobicit y and
Pk1 and Pk2
Hydrophobicity and
Hydrophobicity and
Pk1 and PI
Hydrophobicity and
Pk2 31
Hydrophobicity and
Pk2 and PI
Hydrophobicity and
Hydrophilicity and
Mass and Pk1
Hydrophilicity and
Hydrophilicity and
Mass and Pk2
13 Hydrophilicity and
Pk1 34 Hydrophilicity and
Mass and PI
Hydrophilicity and
Hydrophilicity and
Pk1 and Pk2
Hydrophilicity and
PI 36
Hydrophilicity and
Pk1 and PI
16 Mass and Pk1 37
Hydrophilicity and
Pk2 and PI
17 Mass and Pk2 38 Mass and Pk1 and Pk2
18 Mass and PI 39 Mass and Pk 1 and PI
19 Pk1 and Pk2 40 Mass and Pk2 and PI
20 Pk1 and PI 41 Pk1 and Pk2 and PI
21 Pk2 and PI
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
aims to find a hyper plane of the form wtϕ(x) + b = 0,
which separates the patterns of the two classes.
In the case of noisy data, to avoid poor generalization
for unseen data, a vector of slack variables Ξ =
(ξ1,ξ2,…,ξl)T should be taken in to account. The problem
can then be written as:
The solution then yields the soft margin classifier. By
introducing a set of Lagrange multipliers αi and setting
the derivation of Lagrangian function equal to zero we
11 1
Minimize (,)
subject to
=0, 0 1, 2, 3,...
ll l
iji jiji
ij i
ii i
yyk xx
αα α
= ==
∑∑ ∑
where K(xi, xj) = ϕ(xi) ϕ(xj), termed as kernel matrix, is
an implicit mapping of the input data into the high di-
mensional feature space by a kernel function. In this pa-
per, we focus on the RBF kernels:
(,)(). ()exp2
ijiji j
Kxxxxx x
φφ σ
== −−
For this study the publicly available LIBSVM software
with the radial basis function as a kernel is used [9].
2.3. MLP
MLP is a feed-forward artificial neural network model.
This netwo rk consists of multiple layers of nodes so that,
each layer completely connected to the next one. Each
node is a neuron with a nonlinear activation function,
except input nodes. MLP use back-propagation for train-
ing the network.
2.4. SMOTE
Using imbalanced dataset, usually a biased classifier is
obtained so that the accuracy of majority class is higher
than the minority class. Many methods have been pro-
posed to solve this problem. One well-known method
that is used to balance the class distribution is SMOTE
SMOTE creates synthetic data in order to over-sample
the minority class. In this method, k-nearest neighbors
for each instance in minority class are considered and
some instances are randomly selected from them accord-
ing to the over-sampling rate. Determination of k-nearest
neighbors is based on Euclidean distance. If ai is an in-
stance from minority class and âi is one of the k-nearest
neighbors, the synthe tic data that is added to minority
class is obtained using the following relation (4) so that β
is a random number between (0,1).
aa aa
3. Dataset
The dataset in this study are obtained from IEDB
[] for HLA-DRB1*0301 MHC
class II. In order to eliminate redundant sequence, three
approaches were applied separately to binders and non-
binders. Therefore the estimates of performance of pre-
diction methods were more realistic. In these dataset,
UPDS are unique peptides. SRDS1 were obtained from
UPDS dataset by applying a similarity reduction ap-
proach so that we ensure there are not two peptides with
a common 9-mer subsequence in these data. SRDS2 were
obtained by filtering the binders and nonbinders in
SRDS1. In SRDS2 data, the identity of sequences among
any pair of peptides is under 80%. Another data that are
used in this study, is SRDS3 that were extracted from
UPDS by applying similarity reduction method that p ro-
posed by Raghava [12].
Then, the pseudo amino acid compositions for these
peptides are calculated using PseAAC server. For this
study, type 1 PseAAC, which is al so called the parallel
correlation type, λ = 1, and weight factor = 0.05 are ap-
Calculations by PseAAC server for all six characters
and their binary and ternary combinations have been
C(6,1) + C(6,2) + C(6,3) = 41 (Table 1).
The number of binders and nonbinders in dataset are
shown in Table 2.
4. Result
Considering the dataset described above, 5-fold cros s
validation is used to examine the efficiency of predictor.
In the 5-fold cross validation, the dataset are randomly
divided into 5 subsets with equal samples. With these
subsets, each time 4 subsets are used for training and 1
subset is used for testing. Therefore the training and test-
ing are performed 5 times. Finally the average perfor-
mance is calculated using the definition of accuracy (5):
Table 2. Number of binding and nonbinding in hla-drb1*
0301 dataset.
Number of binding 78 69 81 135
Number of nonbinding 292 276 396 556
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ENG
() ()
In our classification task, the minor ity class is labeled
as positive, and the majority class is labeled as negative.
TP, TN, FP and FN are the numbers of true positive, true
negative, false positive and false negative, respectively.
If we use imbalanced dataset, even when the classifier
classifies all the minority instances incorrectly and all the
majority instances correctly, the accuracy is high because
the majority instances are more than minority ones. For
this reason, we also use sensitivity (SEN), specificity
(SPEC) and Area Under Curve (AUC) to evaluate the
performance of the predictor. AUC is a measure that de-
termines the quality of the prediction by calculating the
area under Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC)
curve. ROC curve is a graphical plot of the true-positive
rate vs. false-positive rate. For the perfect predictor the
AUC is equal 1. Sensitivity and specificity are also given
by following Equations (6) and (7):
( )
(6 )
( )
The results of applying MLP, LIBSVM and previous
methods on the HLA-DRB1*0301 are shown in Table 3.
As can be seen, performance of LIBSVM classifier is
better than other methods.
Table 3. Results of methodes.
SRDS1 LIBSVM 82.1 88.1 75.6 0.819
MLP 72 72.1 72.2 0.783
CTD [7] 63.4 64.2 62.67 0.661
LA [7] 58.5 59.9 57.33 0.617
5-spectrum [7] 42.2 63.5 22.67 0.323
SRDS2 LIBSVM 81.7 87.7 75.6 0.817
MLP 72.8 75 70.5 0.772
CTD 59.9 59.1 60.69 0.628
LA 55.9 54.3 57.24 0.563
5-spectrum 35.3 37 33.79 0.273
SRDS3 LIBSVM 80.8 81.2 80.5 0.808
MLP 75 71.6 77.7 0.834
CTD 64.6 60.6 67.91 0.675
LA 67.2 61.1 72.09 0.736
5-spectrum 63.1 49.7 73.95 0.678
UPDS LIBSVM 90.2 93.9 86.6 0.903
MLP 83.3 84.8 81.9 0.9
CTD 72.5 74 70.87 0.787
LA 71.9 73.6 70 0.795
5-spectrum 70.3 82.8 56.09 0.77
5. Conclusions
In this study, we try to predict the binding between pep-
tide and MHC class II molecule. First, the pseudo amino
acid compositions are extracted for peptides and then a
preprocessing step is applied to balance the data distribu-
tion. Finally, MLP and LIBSVM are used to classify
these data.
By comparing the results, it is clear that performance
of LIBSVM classifier is better than other methods [7].
As expected, we see that the best results are obtained
when the U PD S data are used, because these data contain
redundant sequences. Therefore, to achieve a reasonable
result we should consider the results of applying the ap-
proach on SRDS data.
Finally, our r esults demonstrate that using the concept
of PseAAC and SVM is a successful method for the pre-
diction of MHC class II molecules.
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