Cracking the black box of deep sequence-based protein-protein interaction prediction

Judith Bernett, David B. Blumenthal, Markus List

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Identifying protein-protein interactions (PPIs) is crucial for deciphering biological pathways. Numerous prediction methods have been developed as cheap alternatives to biological experiments, reporting surprisingly high accuracy estimates. We systematically investigated how much reproducible deep learning models depend on data leakage,sequence similarities and node degree information, and compared them with basic machine learning models.We found that overlaps between training and test sets resulting from random splitting lead to strongly overestimated performances.In this setting,models learn solely from sequence similarities and node degrees. When data leakage is avoided by minimizing sequence similarities between training and test set, performances become random. Moreover, baseline models directly leveraging sequence similarity and network topology show good performances at a fraction of the computational cost. Thus, we advocate that any improvements should be reported relative to baseline methods in the future. Our findings suggest that predicting PPIs remains an unsolved task for proteins showing little sequence similarity to previously studied proteins, highlighting that further experimental research into the 'dark' protein interactome and better computational methods are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbbae076
JournalBriefings in Bioinformatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • Data Leakage
  • Deep Learning
  • protein-protein Interaction Prediction


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