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A novel applicability domain technique for mapping predictive reliability across the chemical space of a QSAR: reliability-density neighbourhood

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 09:04 authored by Natália Aniceto, Alex A Freitas, Andreas Bender, Taravat Ghafourian
The ability to define the regions of chemical space where a predictive model can be safely used is a necessary condition to assure the reliability of new predictions. This implies that reliability must be determined across chemical space in the attempt to localize “safe” and “unsafe” regions for prediction. As a result we devised an applicability domain technique that addresses the data locally instead of handling it as a whole—the reliability-density neighbourhood (RDN). The main novelty aspect of this method is that it characterizes each single training instance according to the density of its neighbourhood in the training set, as well as its individual bias and precision. By scanning through the chemical space (by iteratively increasing the applicability domain area), it was observed that new test compounds are successively included into the applicability domain region in such a manner that strongly correlates to their predictive performance. This allows the mapping of local reliability across different locations in the training set space, and thus allows identifying regions where the model has low reliability. This method also showed matching profiles between two external sets, which is an indication that it performs robustly with new data. Another novel aspect in this technique is that it is paired with a specific feature selection algorithm. As a result, the impact of the feature set used was studied from which the top 20 features selected by ReliefF yielded the best results, as opposed to using the model’s features or the entire feature set as commonly done. As the third novel aspect, in this work we propose a new scoring function to help evaluate the quality of an applicability domain profile (i.e., the curve of accuracy vs the applicability domain measure in question). Overall, the RDN showed to be a promising method that can correctly sort new instances according to predictive performance. As a result, this technique can be received by an end-user as proof of concept for the performance of a QSAR model in new data, thus promoting the user’s trust on the QSAR output.


Publication status

  • Published

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  • Published version


Journal of Cheminformatics




Chemistry Central





Department affiliated with

  • Biochemistry Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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