High precision protein functional site detection using 3D convolutional neural networks

Bioinformatics. 2019 May 1;35(9):1503-1512. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/bty813.


Motivation: Accurate annotation of protein functions is fundamental for understanding molecular and cellular physiology. Data-driven methods hold promise for systematically deriving rules underlying the relationship between protein structure and function. However, the choice of protein structural representation is critical. Pre-defined biochemical features emphasize certain aspects of protein properties while ignoring others, and therefore may fail to capture critical information in complex protein sites.

Results: In this paper, we present a general framework that applies 3D convolutional neural networks (3DCNNs) to structure-based protein functional site detection. The framework can extract task-dependent features automatically from the raw atom distributions. We benchmarked our method against other methods and demonstrate better or comparable performance for site detection. Our deep 3DCNNs achieved an average recall of 0.955 at a precision threshold of 0.99 on PROSITE families, detected 98.89 and 92.88% of nitric oxide synthase and TRYPSIN-like enzyme sites in Catalytic Site Atlas, and showed good performance on challenging cases where sequence motifs are absent but a function is known to exist. Finally, we inspected the individual contributions of each atom to the classification decisions and show that our models successfully recapitulate known 3D features within protein functional sites.

Availability and implementation: The 3DCNN models described in this paper are available at https://simtk.org/projects/fscnn.

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Proteins


  • Proteins