High-Throughput Prediction of MHC Class I and II Neoantigens with MHCnuggets

Cancer Immunol Res. 2020 Mar;8(3):396-408. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-19-0464. Epub 2019 Dec 23.


Computational prediction of binding between neoantigen peptides and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins can be used to predict patient response to cancer immunotherapy. Current neoantigen predictors focus on in silico estimation of MHC binding affinity and are limited by low predictive value for actual peptide presentation, inadequate support for rare MHC alleles, and poor scalability to high-throughput data sets. To address these limitations, we developed MHCnuggets, a deep neural network method that predicts peptide-MHC binding. MHCnuggets can predict binding for common or rare alleles of MHC class I or II with a single neural network architecture. Using a long short-term memory network (LSTM), MHCnuggets accepts peptides of variable length and is faster than other methods. When compared with methods that integrate binding affinity and MHC-bound peptide (HLAp) data from mass spectrometry, MHCnuggets yields a 4-fold increase in positive predictive value on independent HLAp data. We applied MHCnuggets to 26 cancer types in The Cancer Genome Atlas, processing 26.3 million allele-peptide comparisons in under 2.3 hours, yielding 101,326 unique predicted immunogenic missense mutations (IMM). Predicted IMM hotspots occurred in 38 genes, including 24 driver genes. Predicted IMM load was significantly associated with increased immune cell infiltration (P < 2 × 10-16), including CD8+ T cells. Only 0.16% of predicted IMMs were observed in more than 2 patients, with 61.7% of these derived from driver mutations. Thus, we describe a method for neoantigen prediction and its performance characteristics and demonstrate its utility in data sets representing multiple human cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Data Mining
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Protein Binding
  • Software


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II