Volume 16 Supplement 18
A two-layered machine learning method to identify protein O-GlcNAcylation sites with O-GlcNAc transferase substrate motifs
- Hui-Ju Kao†1,
- Chien-Hsun Huang†1, 2,
- Neil Arvin Bretaña3,
- Cheng-Tsung Lu1,
- Kai-Yao Huang1,
- Shun-Long Weng4, 5, 6Email author and
- Tzong-Yi Lee1, 7Email author
© Kao et al.; 2015
Published: 9 December 2015
Protein O-GlcNAcylation, involving the β-attachment of single N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) to the hydroxyl group of serine or threonine residues, is an O-linked glycosylation catalyzed by O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT). Molecular level investigation of the basis for OGT's substrate specificity should aid understanding how O-GlcNAc contributes to diverse cellular processes. Due to an increasing number of O-GlcNAcylated peptides with site-specific information identified by mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics, we were motivated to characterize substrate site motifs of O-GlcNAc transferases. In this investigation, a non-redundant dataset of 410 experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation sites were manually extracted from dbOGAP, OGlycBase and UniProtKB. After detection of conserved motifs by using maximal dependence decomposition, profile hidden Markov model (profile HMM) was adopted to learn a first-layered model for each identified OGT substrate motif. Support Vector Machine (SVM) was then used to generate a second-layered model learned from the output values of profile HMMs in first layer. The two-layered predictive model was evaluated using a five-fold cross validation which yielded a sensitivity of 85.4%, a specificity of 84.1%, and an accuracy of 84.7%. Additionally, an independent testing set from PhosphoSitePlus, which was really non-homologous to the training data of predictive model, was used to demonstrate that the proposed method could provide a promising accuracy (84.05%) and outperform other O-GlcNAcylation site prediction tools. A case study indicated that the proposed method could be a feasible means of conducting preliminary analyses of protein O-GlcNAcylation and has been implemented as a web-based system, OGTSite, which is now freely available at http://csb.cse.yzu.edu.tw/OGTSite/.
KeywordsO-GlcNAcylation O-linked glycosylation O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) substrate motif profile hidden Markov model support vector machine
A type of O-linked glycosylation, Protein O-GlcNAcylation (O-GlcNAc), attaches a single N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) to serine (Ser)/threonine (Thr) residues . O-GlcNAc, commonly found on cytoplasmic and nuclear proteins, has been shown to modulate molecular processes and cellular processes . O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) is an enzyme responsible for the addition of O-GlcNAc during glycosylation. On the other hand, an enzyme O-GlcNAcase (OGA) can remove O-GlcNAc. Recently, extracellular O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (EOGT) , an atypical OGT, has been reported to be responsible for extracellular O-GlcNAcylation of secreted and membrane glycoproteins . Protein O-GlcNAcylation is also responsible for regulating cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions . Accumulating evidence suggests that OGTs may act as a nutrient sensor that links hexosamine biosynthesis pathway to oncogenic signaling and regulation of factors involved in glucose and lipid metabolism . The O-GlcNAc-dependent regulation seems to play an important role in the signaling pathways involved in metabolic reprograming of cancer cells . In addition, O-GlcNAcylation is also an important post-translational modification and deregulation of this mechanism has been linked to various diseases such as diabetes , Alzheimer disease  and cancers [10–12].
With the improvement in mass spectrometry technologies, O-GlcNAcylated proteins in postsynaptic density , murine synapse , mouse brain , rat brain , mouse embryonic stem cell , and Hela cells , have been identified in recent years. However, precise identification of O-GlcNAcylation sites remains to be a challenge due to its dynamic characteristics . Due to an interest to better identify O-GlcNAcylation sites and reduce experimental efforts, computational prediction of site motifs and O-GlcNAcylation sites have been considered. Previously, Gupta and Brunak have developed YinOYang - an O-GlcNAcylation prediction tool trained using 40 O-GlcNAcylation sites . Chen et al. have developed a similar tool incorporating structural topology to identify O-glycosylation sites on transmembrane proteins . The increase in experimentally identified O-GlcNAcylation sites motivates new developments including OGlcNAcScan, which was trained using 373 O-GlcNAcylation sites . More recently, a new prediction tool, O-GlcNAcPRED, has been proposed claiming to have better performance than the aforementioned tools . In the midst of these developments, Carage et al. have demonstrated that ensembles of support vector machine (SVM) classifiers could outperform single SVM classifier in terms of predicting protein glycosylation sites .
Although several computational methods have been developed to predict protein O-GlcNAcylation sites, there is currently no such tool that includes the investigation of potential OGT substrate motifs. It has been reported that molecular level investigation on OGT substrate specificity may aid in understanding how O-GlcNAc contributes to a diverse set of cellular processes . With this, we were motivated to characterize O-GlcNAcylation sites with the consideration of amino acid composition . In this study, we apply maximal dependence decomposition (MDD) to explore potential OGT substrate motifs for the experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation sites. Statistically significant substrate motifs were further tested its prediction power by cross-validation evaluation and independent testing. A two-layered machine learning method, incorporating profile hidden Markov model (HMM) and support vector machine (SVM), was utilized to construct the predictive models. Furthermore, to facilitate the study of protein O-GlcNAcylation, MDD-identified substrate motifs were exploited to implement a web-based tool for identifying O-GlcNAcylation sites with corresponding OGT substrate motifs.
Material and methods
Construction of positive and negative training data sets
Due to the high-throughput mass spectrometry-based glycol-proteomics , several databases [22, 28–30] have been developed for cumulating experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation sites by manually surveying the glycosylation-associated literatures. In this work, the data set for training the predictive model of O-GlcNAcylation sites was mainly extracted from dbOGAP , O-GlycBase , and UniProtKB . From dbOGAP, a total of 250 and 142 sites for O-GlcNAcylated serine (Ser) and threonine (Thr) on 172 proteins were collected. From O-GlycBase version 6.0, 24 sites for O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr from 17 proteins were collected. In UniProtKB, experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation data were first filtered by removing entries annotated as "by similarity", "potential", "probable". This resulted to the collection of 66 and 51 sites for O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr on 53 proteins. To avoid data redundancy, each data obtained from one database was compared to the data obtained from the other databases based on its O-GlcNAcylated site position and the UniProtKB accession number utilized by all three databases. Redundancy was removed by retaining only one record in the event of finding multiple records of the same site position and accession number. After the removal of redundant data, we have obtained 261 and 149 non-redundant sites for O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr on 176 proteins.
Data statistics of positive and negative training data.
Number of O-GlcNAcylated sites (Positive data)
Number of non-O-GlcNAcylated sites (Negative data)
Number of non-O-GlcNAcylated sites (Balanced negative data)
Detection of OGT substrate motifs
where X mn represented the number of sequences having amino acids from group m in position A i and amino acids from group n in position A j , for each pair (A i , A j ) with i≠j. E mn is calculated as , where X mR = X m1 + ...+X m5 , X Cn = X 1n + ...+X 5n , and X denotes the total number of sequences. If a strong dependence is detected (defined as that the chi-square value was larger than 34.3, corresponding to a cutoff level of P = 0.005 with 16 degrees of freedom) between two positions, then the process is continued as described . Moreover, a minimum cluster size is set when applying MDD to cluster the sequences in the positive training data. If the data size of a subgroup was less than the given parameter, the subgroup will not be divided any further. For this study, MDD was executed using various values in order to obtain an optimal minimum cluster size.
Construction of two-layered prediction model
In second layer, a binary SVM classifier is trained using the bit scores of profile HMMs. Based on binary classification, SVMs map the input samples into a higher dimensional space using a kernel function. It then finds a hyper-plane that discriminates between the two classes with maximal margin and minimal error. For this study, we employed a public SVM library, LIBSVM , to generate the second-layered model from the bit scores of positive and negative training data. The radial basis function (RBF) was used as the kernel function of the SVM. The LIBSVM library is able to produce a probability ranging from 0 to 1 for each prediction; in default, a probability value higher than 0.5 is defined as a positive instance. In order to avoid a biased prediction performance, the negative training data was balanced with the positive training data. To select a representative set of negative data, K-means clustering [36, 41] was employed with reference to previous PTM prediction methods [42–47]. This resulted in an equal number of positive and negative sequence fragments for the training data (Table 1).
Five-fold cross validation and performance evaluation
Five-fold cross validation was performed in order to evaluate the predictive performance of each model using various parameters. For this process, the training data is divided into five groups by splitting each dataset into approximately equal sized subgroups where one subgroup is regarded as the test set while the remaining four subgroups are regarded as the training set. This process is repeated five times with each subgroup being used as a test set once . The following measures were used to gauge the average predictive performance of the trained models: Sensitivity (Sn) = TP / (TP+FN), Specificity (Sp) = TN / (TN+FP), Accuracy (Acc) = (TP + TN) / (TP+FP+TN+FN), and Matthews Correlation Coefficient , where TP, TN, FP and FN represent the numbers of true positives, true negatives, false positives and false negatives, respectively. After thirty rounds of cross-validation process, average Sn, Sp, Acc and MCC values were calculated for each model. The predictive model with the best average performance was then selected for further evaluation by independent testing dataset.
Construction of independent testing data set
In order to address a potential overestimation of the predictive performance of the models due to over-fitting, an independent test was carried out. For this analysis, experimentally validated sequences obtained from PhosphoSitePlus  were used as independent testing data. A total of 779 and 582 experimentally verified sites for O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr on 542 proteins were obtained from PhosphoSitePlus. Similar to the construction of positive training set, the sequence fragments centered on O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr residues are extracted using 11-mer window length. Additionally, O-GlcNAcylated sequence fragments homologous to the positive training data were removed in order to generate a non-homologous independent testing data. As a result, a total of 956 sequence fragments, consisting of 522 and 434 O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr residues, respectively, were regarded as the positive data for independent testing. On the other hand, sequence fragments centered on non-O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr residues were regarded as negative data for independent testing. Upon removing homologous data, a total of 60976 sequence fragments (38682 and 22294 non-O-GlcNAcylated Ser and Thr residues) were collected for the negative testing data.
Results and discussion
Amino acids composition of O-GlcNAcylation sites
Substrate site motifs of O-GlcNAc transferases
Predictive performance of the identified substrate motifs
Five-fold cross validation results on profile HMMs learned from all data and seven MDD-clustered subgroups.
Number of positive data
Number of negative data
Single HMM with all data
HMM with OGT1
HMM with OGT2
HMM with OGT3
HMM with OGT4
HMM with OGT5
HMM with OGT6
HMM with OGT7
MDD-clustered HMMs (Combined 7 OGT HMMs)
Two-layered model (7 HMMs + 1 SVM)
With reference to a previous work applying two-layered SVMs on the prediction of viral phosphorylation sites , this work further combined seven profile HMMs (first layer) and one SVM (second layer) into a two-layered prediction model, which provides a better performance than the combination of seven OGT HMMs (MDD-clustered HMMs). The two-layered prediction model yielded a sensitivity of 85.4%, a specificity of 84.1%, an accuracy of 0.84.7%, and an MCC value of 0.695. In this investigation, the model providing best performance was further evaluated by independent testing set.
Independent testing and comparison with other prediction tools
The comparison of independent testing results between our methods and other three O-GlcNAcylation prediction tools.
Single HMM with all data
(7 OGT HMMs)
(7 HMMs + 1 SVM)
To further demonstrate the effectiveness of our method, the independent testing set was used to compare the two-layered model with three popular O-GlcNAcylation site prediction tools, YinOYang, O-GlcNAcScan, and O-GlcNAcPRED. Table 3 indicated that the prediction power yielded by our two-layered model was superior to that by other three prediction tools. By using default threshold value (0.5), YinOYang yielded a sensitivity of 46.97%, a specificity of 83.01%, an accuracy of 82.46%, and an MCC value of 0.097. O-GlcNAcScan achieved a sensitivity of 42.99%, a specificity of 84.00%, an accuracy of 83.37%, and an MCC value of 0.089. O-GlcNAcPRED provided a lowest independent testing performance: 57.95% sensitivity, 63.00% specificity, 62.92% accuracy, and 0.053 MCC value. This independent testing indicated that the two-layered model could provide balanced sensitivity and specificity for such unbalanced positive and negative datasets. The proposed method also provided comparable accuracy with that analyzed by O-GlcNAcScan. Overall, as presented in Figure S1 (Additional file 3), the proposed method outperformed the three prediction tools.
Web-based system for the identification of O-GlcNAcylation sites
This study presents a novel scheme to identify potential substrate specificity of O-GlcNAc transferase based on a set of experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation sites. We have demonstrated the utility of MDD clustering method in the characterization of substrate motifs of O-GlcNAcylation sites. Additionally, the proposed pipeline includes the effectiveness of the identified MDD-detected short linear motifs to predict O-GlcNAcylated sites. A five-fold cross-validation evaluation showed the power of MDD-identified substrate motifs in the prediction of O-GlcNAcylated sites. Moreover, the two-layered model combining seven profile HMMs and one SVM could provide the best performance. The two-layered model has been used to implement an online system, OGTSite, for an effective identification of protein O-GlcNAcylation sites. By identifying potential O-GlcNAcylation sites using the proposed method, we will be providing a reliable lead to the scientific community to minimize costs and effort for experimentally verifying actual O-GlcNAcylation sites. It should be noted that the proposed method could also be extended to include more meaningful substrate motifs by further acquiring experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation sites. Additionally, a more abundant set of experimentally verified O-GlcNAcylation sites with protein tertiary structure information could be used to strengthen site prediction capabilities .
The proposed method is implemented as a web-based resource, which is now freely available to all interested users at http://csb.cse.yzu.edu.tw/OGTSite/. All of the dataset used in this work is also available for download in the website.
The authors sincerely appreciate the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of Taiwan for financially supporting this research under contract number of MOST 103-2221-E-155-020-MY3, MOST 103-2633-E-155-002, and MOST 104-2221-E-155-036-MY2.
Publication charge for this work was funded by MOST grant under contract number of MOST 103-2221-E-155-020-MY3 and MOST 104-2221-E-155-036-MY2 to TYL.
This article has been published as part of BMC Bioinformatics Volume 16 Supplement 18, 2015: Joint 26th Genome Informatics Workshop and 14th International Conference on Bioinformatics: Bioinformatics. The full contents of the supplement are available online at http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbioinformatics/supplements/16/S18.
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