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The affinities of 177 nonameric peptides binding to the HLA-A*0201 molecule were measured using a FACS-based MHC stabilisation assay and analysed using chemometrics. Their structures were described by global and local descriptors, QSAR models were derived by genetic algorithm, stepwise regression and PLS. The global molecular descriptors included molecular connectivity chi indices, kappa shape indices, E-state indices, molecular properties like molecular weight and log P, and three-dimensional descriptors like polarizability, surface area and volume. The local descriptors were of two types. The first used a binary string to indicate the presence of each amino acid type at each position of the peptide. The second was also position-dependent but used five z-scales to describe the main physicochemical properties of the amino acids forming the peptides. The models were developed using a representative training set of 131 peptides and validated using an independent test set of 46 peptides. It was found that the global descriptors could not explain the variance in the training set nor predict the affinities of the test set accurately. Both types of local descriptors gave QSAR models with better explained variance and predictive ability. The results suggest that, in their interactions with the MHC molecule, the peptide acts as a complicated ensemble of multiple amino acids mutually potentiating each other.

Original publication




Journal article


J Comput Aided Mol Des

Publication Date





203 - 212


Algorithms, Amino Acid Sequence, Binding Sites, HLA-A Antigens, HLA-A2 Antigen, Models, Theoretical, Oligopeptides, Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship, Regression Analysis