Rank-ordering of known enzymes as starting points for re-engineering novel substrate activity using a convolutional neural network

Vikas Upadhyay, Veda Sheersh Boorla, Costas D. Maranas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Retro-biosynthetic approaches have made significant advances in predicting synthesis routes of target biofuel, bio-renewable or bio-active molecules. The use of only cataloged enzymatic activities limits the discovery of new production routes. Recent retro-biosynthetic algorithms increasingly use novel conversions that require altering the substrate or cofactor specificities of existing enzymes while connecting pathways leading to a target metabolite. However, identifying and re-engineering enzymes for desired novel conversions are currently the bottlenecks in implementing such designed pathways. Herein, we present EnzRank, a convolutional neural network (CNN) based approach, to rank-order existing enzymes in terms of their suitability to undergo successful protein engineering through directed evolution or de novo design towards a desired specific substrate activity. We train the CNN model on 11,800 known active enzyme-substrate pairs from the BRENDA database as positive samples and data generated by scrambling these pairs as negative samples using substrate dissimilarity between an enzyme's native substrate and all other molecules present in the dataset using Tanimoto similarity score. EnzRank achieves an average recovery rate of 80.72% and 73.08% for positive and negative pairs on test data after using a 10-fold holdout method for training and cross-validation. We further developed a web-based user interface (available at https://huggingface.co/spaces/vuu10/EnzRank) to predict enzyme-substrate activity using SMILES strings of substrates and enzyme sequence as input to allow convenient and easy-to-use access to EnzRank. In summary, this effort can aid de novo pathway design tools to prioritize starting enzyme re-engineering candidates for novel reactions as well as in predicting the potential secondary activity of enzymes in cell metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalMetabolic engineering
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

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