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In Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

The reliable prediction of the affinity of candidate peptides for the MHC is important for predicting their potential antigenicity and thus influences medical applications, such as decisions on their inclusion in T cell-based vaccines. In this study, we present a rapid, predictive computational approach that combines a popular, sequence-based artificial neural network method, NetMHCpan 4.0, with three-dimensional structural modeling. We find that the ensembles of bound peptide conformations generated by the programs MODELLER and Rosetta FlexPepDock are less variable in geometry for strong binders than for low-affinity peptides. In tests on 1271 peptide sequences for which the experimental dissociation constants of binding to the well-characterized murine MHC allele H-2Db are known, by applying thresholds for geometric fluctuations the structure-based approach in a standalone manner drastically improves the statistical specificity, reducing the number of false positives. Furthermore, filtering candidates generated with NetMHCpan 4.0 with the structure-based predictor led to an increase in the positive predictive value (PPV) of the peptides correctly predicted to bind very strongly (i.e., Kd < 100 nM) from 40 to 52% (p = 0.027). The combined method also significantly improved the PPV when tested on five human alleles, including some with limited data for training. Overall, an average increase of 10% in the PPV was found over the standalone sequence-based method. The combined method should be useful in the rapid design of effective T cell-based vaccines.

Aranha Michelle P, Jewel Yead S M, Beckman Robert A, Weiner Louis M, Mitchell Julie C, Parks Jerry M, Smith Jeremy C