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Strength in numbers: achieving greater accuracy in MHC-I binding prediction by combining the results from multiple prediction tools
Background: Peptides derived from endogenous antigens can bind to MHC class I molecules. Those which bind with high affinity can invoke a CD8+ immune response, resulting in the destruction of infected cells. Much work in immunoinformatics has involved the algorithmic prediction of peptide binding affinity to various MHC-I alleles. A number of tools for MHC-I binding prediction have been developed, many of which are available on the web. Results: We hypothesize that peptides predicted by a number of tools are more likely to bind than those predicted by just one tool, and that the likelihood of a particular peptide being a binder is related to the number of tools that predict it, as well as the accuracy of those tools. To this end, we have built and tested a heuristic-based method of making MHC-binding predictions by combining the results from multiple tools. The predictive performance of each individual tool is first ascertained. These performance data are used to derive weights such that the predictions of tools with better accuracy are given greater credence. The combined tool was evaluated using ten-fold cross-validation and was found to signicantly outperform the individual tools when a high specificity threshold is used. It performs comparably well to the best-performing individual tools at lower specificity thresholds. Finally, it also outperforms the combination of the tools resulting from linear discriminant analysis. Conclusion: A heuristic-based method of combining the results of the individual tools better facilitates the scanning of large proteomes for potential epitopes, yielding more actual high-affinity binders while reporting very few false positives.