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AbstractProtein representations from deep language models have yielded state-of-the-art performance across many tasks in computational protein engineering. In recent years, progress has primarily focused on parameter count, with recent models’ capacities surpassing the size of the very datasets they were trained on. Here we propose an alternative direction. We show that large language models trained on codons, instead of amino acid sequences, provide high-quality representations that outperform comparable state-of-the-art models across a variety of tasks. In some tasks, such as species recognition, prediction of protein and transcript abundance or melting point estimation, we show that a language model trained on codons outperforms every other published protein language model, including some that contain over 50 times more parameters. These results indicate that, in addition to commonly studied scale and model complexity, the information content of biological data provides an orthogonal direction to improve the power of machine learning in biology.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Machine Intelligence


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Date





170 - 179