A natural upper bound to the accuracy of predicting protein stability changes upon mutations

Ludovica Montanucci, Pier Luigi Martelli, Nir Ben-Tal*, Piero Fariselli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Motivation: Accurate prediction of protein stability changes upon single-site variations (ΔΔG) is important for protein design, as well as for our understanding of the mechanisms of genetic diseases. The performance of high-throughput computational methods to this end is evaluated mostly based on the Pearson correlation coefficient between predicted and observed data, assuming that the upper bound would be 1 (perfect correlation). However, the performance of these predictors can be limited by the distribution and noise of the experimental data. Here we estimate, for the first time, a theoretical upper-bound to the ΔΔG prediction performances imposed by the intrinsic structure of currently available ΔΔG data. Results: Given a set of measured ΔΔG protein variations, the theoretically "best predictor" is estimated based on its similarity to another set of experimentally determined ΔΔG values. We investigate the correlation between pairs of measured ΔΔG variations, where one is used as a predictor for the other. We analytically derive an upper bound to the Pearson correlation as a function of the noise and distribution of the ΔΔG data. We also evaluate the available datasets to highlight the effect of the noise in conjunction with ΔΔG distribution.We conclude that the upper bound is a function of both uncertainty and spread of the ΔΔG values, and that with current data the best performance should be between 0.7 and 0.8, depending on the dataset used; higher Pearson correlations might be indicative of overtraining. It also follows that comparisons of predictors using different datasets are inherentlymisleading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1513-1517
Number of pages5
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 May 2019


FundersFunder number
Abraham E. Kazan Chair
Israel Ministry of Science and Technology
Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation
Tel Aviv University


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