Motivation

B-cell epitopes (BCEs) play a pivotal role in the development of peptide vaccines, immuno-diagnostic reagents and antibody production, and thus in infectious disease prevention and diagnostics in general. Experimental methods used to determine BCEs are costly and time-consuming. Therefore, it is essential to develop computational methods for the rapid identification of BCEs. Although several computational methods have been developed for this task, generalizability is still a major concern, where cross-testing of the classifiers trained and tested on different datasets has revealed accuracies of 51–53%.

Results

We describe a new method called EpitopeVec, which uses a combination of residue properties, modified antigenicity scales, and protein language model-based representations (protein vectors) as features of peptides for linear BCE predictions. Extensive benchmarking of EpitopeVec and other state-of-the-art methods for linear BCE prediction on several large and small datasets, as well as cross-testing, demonstrated an improvement in the performance of EpitopeVec over other methods in terms of accuracy and area under the curve. As the predictive performance depended on the species origin of the respective antigens (viral, bacterial and eukaryotic), we also trained our method on a large viral dataset to create a dedicated linear viral BCE predictor with improved cross-testing performance.

Availability and implementation

The software is available at https://github.com/hzi-bifo/epitope-prediction.

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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