MOTIVATION MHC:peptide binding plays a central role in activating the immune surveillance. Computational approaches to determine T-cell epitopes restricted to any given major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule are of special practical value in the development of for instance vaccines with broad population coverage against emerging pathogens. Methods have recently been published that are able to predict peptide binding to any human MHC class I molecule. In contrast to conventional allele-specific methods, these methods do allow for extrapolation to uncharacterized MHC molecules. These pan-specific human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) predictors have not previously been compared using independent evaluation sets. RESULT A diverse set of quantitative peptide binding affinity measurements was collected from Immune Epitope database (IEDB), together with a large set of HLA class I ligands from the SYFPEITHI database. Based on these datasets, three different pan-specific HLA web-accessible predictors NetMHCpan, adaptive double threading (ADT) and kernel-based inter-allele peptide binding prediction system (KISS) were evaluated. The performance of the pan-specific predictors was also compared with a well performing allele-specific MHC class I predictor, NetMHC, as well as a consensus approach integrating the predictions from the NetMHC and NetMHCpan methods. CONCLUSIONS The benchmark demonstrated that pan-specific methods do provide accurate predictions also for previously uncharacterized MHC molecules. The NetMHCpan method trained to predict actual binding affinities was consistently top ranking both on quantitative (affinity) and binary (ligand) data. However, the KISS method trained to predict binary data was one of the best performing methods when benchmarked on binary data. Finally, a consensus method integrating predictions from the two best performing methods was shown to improve the prediction accuracy.
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