Multi-task learning to leverage partially annotated data for PPI interface prediction

Henriette Capel, Anton Feenstra, S. Abeln*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Protein protein interactions (PPI) are crucial for protein functioning, nevertheless predicting residues in PPI interfaces from the protein sequence remains a challenging problem. In addition, structure-based functional annotations, such as the PPI interface annotations, are scarce: only for about one-third of all protein structures residue-based PPI interface annotations are available. If we want to use a deep learning strategy, we have to overcome the problem of limited data availability. Here we use a multi-task learning strategy that can handle missing data. We start with the multi-task model architecture, and adapted it to carefully handle missing data in the cost function. As related learning tasks we include prediction of secondary structure, solvent accessibility, and buried residue. Our results show that the multi-task learning strategy significantly outperforms single task approaches. Moreover, only the multi-task strategy is able to effectively learn over a dataset extended with structural feature data, without additional PPI annotations. The multi-task setup becomes even more important, if the fraction of PPI annotations becomes very small: the multi-task learner trained on only one-eighth of the PPI annotations—with data extension—reaches the same performances as the single-task learner on all PPI annotations. Thus, we show that the multi-task learning strategy can be beneficial for a small training dataset where the protein’s functional properties of interest are only partially annotated.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2022


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