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BMC Bioinformatics. 2019 Jun 11;20(1):311. doi: 10.1186/s12859-019-2932-0.

ProteinNet: a standardized data set for machine learning of protein structure.

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Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.



Rapid progress in deep learning has spurred its application to bioinformatics problems including protein structure prediction and design. In classic machine learning problems like computer vision, progress has been driven by standardized data sets that facilitate fair assessment of new methods and lower the barrier to entry for non-domain experts. While data sets of protein sequence and structure exist, they lack certain components critical for machine learning, including high-quality multiple sequence alignments and insulated training/validation splits that account for deep but only weakly detectable homology across protein space.


We created the ProteinNet series of data sets to provide a standardized mechanism for training and assessing data-driven models of protein sequence-structure relationships. ProteinNet integrates sequence, structure, and evolutionary information in programmatically accessible file formats tailored for machine learning frameworks. Multiple sequence alignments of all structurally characterized proteins were created using substantial high-performance computing resources. Standardized data splits were also generated to emulate the difficulty of past CASP (Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction) experiments by resetting protein sequence and structure space to the historical states that preceded six prior CASPs. Utilizing sensitive evolution-based distance metrics to segregate distantly related proteins, we have additionally created validation sets distinct from the official CASP sets that faithfully mimic their difficulty.


ProteinNet represents a comprehensive and accessible resource for training and assessing machine-learned models of protein structure.


CASP; Co-evolution; Database; Deep learning; Machine learning; PSSM; Protein sequence; Protein structure; Protein structure prediction; Proteins

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