Sparse regressions for predicting and interpreting subcellular localization of multi-label proteins

Shibiao Wan, Man Wai Mak, Sun Yuan Kung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Predicting protein subcellular localization is indispensable for inferring protein functions. Recent studies have been focusing on predicting not only single-location proteins, but also multi-location proteins. Almost all of the high performing predictors proposed recently use gene ontology (GO) terms to construct feature vectors for classification. Despite their high performance, their prediction decisions are difficult to interpret because of the large number of GO terms involved. Results: This paper proposes using sparse regressions to exploit GO information for both predicting and interpreting subcellular localization of single- and multi-location proteins. Specifically, we compared two multi-label sparse regression algorithms, namely multi-label LASSO (mLASSO) and multi-label elastic net (mEN), for large-scale predictions of protein subcellular localization. Both algorithms can yield sparse and interpretable solutions. By using the one-vs-rest strategy, mLASSO and mEN identified 87 and 429 out of more than 8,000 GO terms, respectively, which play essential roles in determining subcellular localization. More interestingly, many of the GO terms selected by mEN are from the biological process and molecular function categories, suggesting that the GO terms of these categories also play vital roles in the prediction. With these essential GO terms, not only where a protein locates can be decided, but also why it resides there can be revealed. Conclusions: Experimental results show that the output of both mEN and mLASSO are interpretable and they perform significantly better than existing state-of-the-art predictors. Moreover, mEN selects more features and performs better than mLASSO on a stringent human benchmark dataset. For readers' convenience, an online server called SpaPredictor for both mLASSO and mEN is available at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number97
JournalBMC bioinformatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 24 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Sparse regressions for predicting and interpreting subcellular localization of multi-label proteins'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this