Protein embeddings predict binding residues in disordered regions

Laura R. Jahn, Céline Marquet, Michael Heinzinger, Burkhard Rost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The identification of protein binding residues helps to understand their biological processes as protein function is often defined through ligand binding, such as to other proteins, small molecules, ions, or nucleotides. Methods predicting binding residues often err for intrinsically disordered proteins or regions (IDPs/IDPRs), often also referred to as molecular recognition features (MoRFs). Here, we presented a novel machine learning (ML) model trained to specifically predict binding regions in IDPRs. The proposed model, IDBindT5, leveraged embeddings from the protein language model (pLM) ProtT5 to reach a balanced accuracy of 57.2 ± 3.6% (95% confidence interval). Assessed on the same data set, this did not differ at the 95% CI from the state-of-the-art (SOTA) methods ANCHOR2 and DeepDISOBind that rely on expert-crafted features and evolutionary information from multiple sequence alignments (MSAs). Assessed on other data, methods such as SPOT-MoRF reached higher MCCs. IDBindT5’s SOTA predictions are much faster than other methods, easily enabling full-proteome analyses. Our findings emphasize the potential of pLMs as a promising approach for exploring and predicting features of disordered proteins. The model and a comprehensive manual are publicly available at

Original languageEnglish
Article number13566
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Machine learning
  • Protein binding
  • Protein binding prediction
  • Protein disorder
  • Protein function
  • Protein language model


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