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PLoS Comput Biol. 2011 Jul;7(7):e1002101. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002101. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Prediction of cell penetrating peptides by support vector machines.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi, United States of America.


Cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) are those peptides that can transverse cell membranes to enter cells. Once inside the cell, different CPPs can localize to different cellular components and perform different roles. Some generate pore-forming complexes resulting in the destruction of cells while others localize to various organelles. Use of machine learning methods to predict potential new CPPs will enable more rapid screening for applications such as drug delivery. We have investigated the influence of the composition of training datasets on the ability to classify peptides as cell penetrating using support vector machines (SVMs). We identified 111 known CPPs and 34 known non-penetrating peptides from the literature and commercial vendors and used several approaches to build training data sets for the classifiers. Features were calculated from the datasets using a set of basic biochemical properties combined with features from the literature determined to be relevant in the prediction of CPPs. Our results using different training datasets confirm the importance of a balanced training set with approximately equal number of positive and negative examples. The SVM based classifiers have greater classification accuracy than previously reported methods for the prediction of CPPs, and because they use primary biochemical properties of the peptides as features, these classifiers provide insight into the properties needed for cell-penetration. To confirm our SVM classifications, a subset of peptides classified as either penetrating or non-penetrating was selected for synthesis and experimental validation. Of the synthesized peptides predicted to be CPPs, 100% of these peptides were shown to be penetrating.

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