Motivation: Allergenicity, like antigenicity and immunogenicity, is a property encoded linearly and non-linearly, and therefore the alignment-based approaches are not able to identify this property unambiguously. A novel alignment-free descriptor-based fingerprint approach is presented here and applied to identify allergens and non-allergens. The approach was implemented into a four step algorithm. Initially, the protein sequences are described by amino acid principal properties as hydrophobicity, size, relative abundance, helix and β-strand forming propensities. Then, the generated strings of different length are converted into vectors with equal length by auto- and cross-covariance (ACC). The vectors were transformed into binary fingerprints and compared in terms of Tanimoto coefficient.
Results: The approach was applied to a set of 2427 known allergens and 2427 non-allergens and identified correctly 88% of them with Matthews correlation coefficient of 0.759. The descriptor fingerprint approach presented here is universal. It could be applied for any classification problem in computational biology. The set of E-descriptors is able to capture the main structural and physicochemical properties of amino acids building the proteins. The ACC transformation overcomes the main problem in the alignment-based comparative studies arising from the different length of the aligned protein sequences. The conversion of protein ACC values into binary descriptor fingerprints allows similarity search and classification.
Availability and implementation: The algorithm described in the present study was implemented in a specially designed Web site, named AllergenFP (FP stands for FingerPrint). AllergenFP is written in Python, with GIU in HTML. It is freely accessible at http://ddg-pharmfac.net/Allergen FP.
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