Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Bioinformatics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

From sequence to enzyme mechanism using multi-label machine learning

Luna De Ferrari* and John BO Mitchell

Author Affiliations

Biomedical Sciences Research Complex and EaStCHEM School of Chemistry, Purdie Building, University of St Andrews, North Haugh, St Andrews, Scotland KY16 9ST, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Bioinformatics 2014, 15:150  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-15-150

Published: 19 May 2014



In this work we predict enzyme function at the level of chemical mechanism, providing a finer granularity of annotation than traditional Enzyme Commission (EC) classes. Hence we can predict not only whether a putative enzyme in a newly sequenced organism has the potential to perform a certain reaction, but how the reaction is performed, using which cofactors and with susceptibility to which drugs or inhibitors, details with important consequences for drug and enzyme design. Work that predicts enzyme catalytic activity based on 3D protein structure features limits the prediction of mechanism to proteins already having either a solved structure or a close relative suitable for homology modelling.


In this study, we evaluate whether sequence identity, InterPro or Catalytic Site Atlas sequence signatures provide enough information for bulk prediction of enzyme mechanism. By splitting MACiE (Mechanism, Annotation and Classification in Enzymes database) mechanism labels to a finer granularity, which includes the role of the protein chain in the overall enzyme complex, the method can predict at 96% accuracy (and 96% micro-averaged precision, 99.9% macro-averaged recall) the MACiE mechanism definitions of 248 proteins available in the MACiE, EzCatDb (Database of Enzyme Catalytic Mechanisms) and SFLD (Structure Function Linkage Database) databases using an off-the-shelf K-Nearest Neighbours multi-label algorithm.


We find that InterPro signatures are critical for accurate prediction of enzyme mechanism. We also find that incorporating Catalytic Site Atlas attributes does not seem to provide additional accuracy. The software code (ml2db), data and results are available online at webcite and as supplementary files.