Predictive modeling of estrogen receptor binding agents using advanced cheminformatics tools and massive public data

Kathryn Ribay, Marlene T. Kim, Wenyi Wang, Daniel Pinolini, Hao Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Estrogen receptors (ERα) are a critical target for drug design as well as a potential source of toxicity when activated unintentionally. Thus, evaluating potential ERα binding agents is critical in both drug discovery and chemical toxicity areas. Using computational tools, e.g., Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) models, can predict potential ERα binding agents before chemical synthesis. The purpose of this project was to develop enhanced predictive models of ERa binding agents by utilizing advanced cheminformatics tools that can integrate publicly available bioassay data. The initial ERα binding agent data set, consisting of 446 binders and 8307 non-binders, was obtained from the Tox21 Challenge project organized by the NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC). After removing the duplicates and inorganic compounds, this data set was used to create a training set (259 binders and 259 non-binders). This training set was used to develop QSAR models using chemical descriptors. The resulting models were then used to predict the binding activity of 264 external compounds, which were available to us after the models were developed. The cross-validation results of training set [Correct Classification Rate (CCR) = 0.72] were much higher than the external predictivity of the unknown compounds (CCR = 0.59). To improve the conventional QSAR models, all compounds in the training set were used to search PubChem and generate a profile of their biological responses across thousands of bioassays. The most important bioassays were prioritized to generate a similarity index that was used to calculate the biosimilarity score between each two compounds. The nearest neighbors for each compound within the set were then identified and its ERα binding potential was predicted by its nearest neighbors in the training set. The hybrid model performance (CCR = 0.94 for cross validation; CCR = 0.68 for external prediction) showed significant improvement over the original QSAR models, particularly for the activity cliffs that induce prediction errors. The results of this study indicate that the response profile of chemicals from public data provides useful information for modeling and evaluation purposes. The public big data resources should be considered along with chemical structure information when predicting new compounds, such as unknown ERα binding agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 8 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)


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