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In Computers in biology and medicine

Machine learning methods are commonly used for predicting molecular properties to accelerate material and drug design. An important part of this process is deciding how to represent the molecules. Typically, machine learning methods expect examples represented by vectors of values, and many methods for calculating molecular feature representations have been proposed. In this paper, we perform a comprehensive comparison of different molecular features, including traditional methods such as fingerprints and molecular descriptors, and recently proposed learnable representations based on neural networks. Feature representations are evaluated on 11 benchmark datasets, used for predicting properties and measures such as mutagenicity, melting points, activity, solubility, and IC50. Our experiments show that several molecular features work similarly well over all benchmark datasets. The ones that stand out most are Spectrophores, which give significantly worse performance than other features on most datasets. Molecular descriptors from the PaDEL library seem very well suited for predicting physical properties of molecules. Despite their simplicity, MACCS fingerprints performed very well overall. The results show that learnable representations achieve competitive performance compared to expert based representations. However, task-specific representations (graph convolutions and Weave methods) rarely offer any benefits, even though they are computationally more demanding. Lastly, combining different molecular feature representations typically does not give a noticeable improvement in performance compared to individual feature representations.

Stepišnik Tomaž, Škrlj Blaž, Wicker Jörg, Kocev Dragi


Cheminformatics, Molecular feature representation, Predictive modeling, Virtual screening