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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Proteome scanning to predict PDZ domain interactions using support vector machines

Shirley Hui12 and Gary D Bader12*

Author Affiliations

1 Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Banting and Best Department of Medical Research, University of Toronto, Toronto ON, Canada

2 Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto ON, Canada

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:507  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-507

Published: 12 October 2010



PDZ domains mediate protein-protein interactions involved in important biological processes through the recognition of short linear motifs in their target proteins. Two recent independent studies have used protein microarray or phage display technology to detect PDZ domain interactions with peptide ligands on a large scale. Several computational predictors of PDZ domain interactions have been developed, however they are trained using only protein microarray data and focus on limited subsets of PDZ domains. An accurate predictor of genomic PDZ domain interactions would allow the proteomes of organisms to be scanned for potential binders. Such an application would require an accurate and precise predictor to avoid generating too many false positive hits given the large amount of possible interactors in a given proteome. Once validated these predictions will help to increase the coverage of current PDZ domain interaction networks and further our understanding of the roles that PDZ domains play in a variety of biological processes.


We developed a PDZ domain interaction predictor using a support vector machine (SVM) trained with both protein microarray and phage display data. In order to use the phage display data for training, which only contains positive interactions, we developed a method to generate artificial negative interactions. Using cross-validation and a series of independent tests, we showed that our SVM successfully predicts interactions in different organisms. We then used the SVM to scan the proteomes of human, worm and fly to predict binders for several PDZ domains. Predictions were validated using known genomic interactions and published protein microarray experiments. Based on our results, new protein interactions potentially associated with Usher and Bardet-Biedl syndromes were predicted. A comparison of performance measures (F1 measure and FPR) for the SVM and published predictors demonstrated our SVM's improved accuracy and precision at proteome scanning.


We built an SVM using mouse and human experimental training data to predict PDZ domain interactions. We showed that it correctly predicts known interactions from proteomes of different organisms and is more accurate and precise at proteome scanning compared with published state-of-the-art predictors.