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J Chem Inf Model. 2013 Jan 28;53(1):142-58. doi: 10.1021/ci3005308. Epub 2013 Jan 2.

Dependence of QSAR models on the selection of trial descriptor sets: a demonstration using nanotoxicity endpoints of decorated nanotubes.

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Graduate Institute of Biomedical Electronics and Bioinformatics, National Taiwan University, No.1 Sec.4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei, Taiwan 106.


Little attention has been given to the selection of trial descriptor sets when designing a QSAR analysis even though a great number of descriptor classes, and often a greater number of descriptors within a given class, are now available. This paper reports an effort to explore interrelationships between QSAR models and descriptor sets. Zhou and co-workers (Zhou et al., Nano Lett. 2008, 8 (3), 859-865) designed, synthesized, and tested a combinatorial library of 80 surface modified, that is decorated, multi-walled carbon nanotubes for their composite nanotoxicity using six endpoints all based on a common 0 to 100 activity scale. Each of the six endpoints for the 29 most nanotoxic decorated nanotubes were incorporated as the training set for this study. The study reported here includes trial descriptor sets for all possible combinations of MOE, VolSurf, and 4D-fingerprints (FP) descriptor classes, as well as including and excluding explicit spatial contributions from the nanotube. Optimized QSAR models were constructed from these multiple trial descriptor sets. It was found that (a) both the form and quality of the best QSAR models for each of the endpoints are distinct and (b) some endpoints are quite dependent upon 4D-FP descriptors of the entire nanotube-decorator complex. However, other endpoints yielded equally good models only using decorator descriptors with and without the decorator-only 4D-FP descriptors. Lastly, and most importantly, the quality, significance, and interpretation of a QSAR model were found to be critically dependent on the trial descriptor sets used within a given QSAR endpoint study.

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