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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology

In-silico predictive mutagenicity model generation using supervised learning approaches

Abhik Seal1*, Anurag Passi2, UC Abdul Jaleel3, Open Source Drug Discovery Consortium2 and David J Wild1

Author Affiliations

1 Indiana University Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing, Bloomington, USA

2 Open Source Drug Discovery, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi, India

3 Department of Cheminformatics, Malabar Christian College, Kerala, India

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Journal of Cheminformatics 2012, 4:10  doi:10.1186/1758-2946-4-10

Published: 15 May 2012



Experimental screening of chemical compounds for biological activity is a time consuming and expensive practice. In silico predictive models permit inexpensive, rapid “virtual screening” to prioritize selection of compounds for experimental testing. Both experimental and in silico screening can be used to test compounds for desirable or undesirable properties. Prior work on prediction of mutagenicity has primarily involved identification of toxicophores rather than whole-molecule predictive models. In this work, we examined a range of in silico predictive classification models for prediction of mutagenic properties of compounds, including methods such as J48 and SMO which have not previously been widely applied in cheminformatics.


The Bursi mutagenicity data set containing 4337 compounds (Set 1) and a Benchmark data set of 6512 compounds (Set 2) were taken as input data set in this work. A third data set (Set 3) was prepared by joining up the previous two sets. Classification algorithms including Naïve Bayes, Random Forest, J48 and SMO with 10 fold cross-validation and default parameters were used for model generation on these data sets. Models built using the combined performed better than those developed from the Benchmark data set. Significantly, Random Forest outperformed other classifiers for all the data sets, especially for Set 3 with 89.27% accuracy, 89% precision and ROC of 95.3%. To validate the developed models two external data sets, AID1189 and AID1194, with mutagenicity data were tested showing 62% accuracy with 67% precision and 65% ROC area and 91% accuracy, 91% precision with 96.3% ROC area respectively. A Random Forest model was used on approved drugs from DrugBank and metabolites from the Zinc Database with True Positives rate almost 85% showing the robustness of the model.


We have created a new mutagenicity benchmark data set with around 8,000 compounds. Our work shows that highly accurate predictive mutagenicity models can be built using machine learning methods based on chemical descriptors and trained using this set, and these models provide a complement to toxicophores based methods. Further, our work supports other recent literature in showing that Random Forest models generally outperform other comparable machine learning methods for this kind of application.

Molecular descriptors; Machine learning; Mutagenicity; Random forest; Screening; Toxicophores