Qualitative prediction of blood-brain barrier permeability on a large and refined dataset

J Comput Aided Mol Des. 2011 Dec;25(12):1095-106. doi: 10.1007/s10822-011-9478-1. Epub 2011 Nov 23.


The prediction of blood-brain barrier permeation is vitally important for the optimization of drugs targeting the central nervous system as well as for avoiding side effects of peripheral drugs. Following a previously proposed model on blood-brain barrier penetration, we calculated the cross-sectional area perpendicular to the amphiphilic axis. We obtained a high correlation between calculated and experimental cross-sectional area (r = 0.898, n = 32). Based on these results, we examined a correlation of the calculated cross-sectional area with blood-brain barrier penetration given by logBB values. We combined various literature data sets to form a large-scale logBB dataset with 362 experimental logBB values. Quantitative models were calculated using bootstrap validated multiple linear regression. Qualitative models were built by a bootstrapped random forest algorithm. Both methods found similar descriptors such as polar surface area, pKa, logP, charges and number of positive ionisable groups to be predictive for logBB. In contrast to our initial assumption, we were not able to obtain models with the cross-sectional area chosen as relevant parameter for both approaches. Comparing those two different techniques, qualitative random forest models are better suited for blood-brain barrier permeability prediction, especially when reducing the number of descriptors and using a large dataset. A random forest prediction system (n(trees) = 5) based on only four descriptors yields a validated accuracy of 88%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Permeability
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations