Motivation: The effective representation of proteins is a crucial task that directly affects the performance of many bioinformatics problems. Related proteins usually bind to similar ligands. Chemical characteristics of ligands are known to capture the functional and mechanistic properties of proteins suggesting that a ligand-based approach can be utilized in protein representation. In this study, we propose SMILESVec, a Simplified molecular input line entry system (SMILES)-based method to represent ligands and a novel method to compute similarity of proteins by describing them based on their ligands. The proteins are defined utilizing the word-embeddings of the SMILES strings of their ligands. The performance of the proposed protein description method is evaluated in protein clustering task using TransClust and MCL algorithms. Two other protein representation methods that utilize protein sequence, Basic local alignment tool and ProtVec, and two compound fingerprint-based protein representation methods are compared.
Results: We showed that ligand-based protein representation, which uses only SMILES strings of the ligands that proteins bind to, performs as well as protein sequence-based representation methods in protein clustering. The results suggest that ligand-based protein description can be an alternative to the traditional sequence or structure-based representation of proteins and this novel approach can be applied to different bioinformatics problems such as prediction of new protein-ligand interactions and protein function annotation.
Availability and implementation: https://github.com/hkmztrk/SMILESVecProteinRepresentation.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.