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PLoS One. 2010 Feb 17;5(2):e9272. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009272.

Limitations of Ab initio predictions of peptide binding to MHC class II molecules.

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Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Department for Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark.


Successful predictions of peptide MHC binding typically require a large set of binding data for the specific MHC molecule that is examined. Structure based prediction methods promise to circumvent this requirement by evaluating the physical contacts a peptide can make with an MHC molecule based on the highly conserved 3D structure of peptide:MHC complexes. While several such methods have been described before, most are not publicly available and have not been independently tested for their performance. We here implemented and evaluated three prediction methods for MHC class II molecules: statistical potentials derived from the analysis of known protein structures; energetic evaluation of different peptide snapshots in a molecular dynamics simulation; and direct analysis of contacts made in known 3D structures of peptide:MHC complexes. These methods are ab initio in that they require structural data of the MHC molecule examined, but no specific peptide:MHC binding data. Moreover, these methods retain the ability to make predictions in a sufficiently short time scale to be useful in a real world application, such as screening a whole proteome for candidate binding peptides. A rigorous evaluation of each methods prediction performance showed that these are significantly better than random, but still substantially lower than the best performing sequence based class II prediction methods available. While the approaches presented here were developed independently, we have chosen to present our results together in order to support the notion that generating structure based predictions of peptide:MHC binding without using binding data is unlikely to give satisfactory results.

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