Equivariant Graph Neural Networks for Toxicity Prediction

17 July 2023, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Predictive modeling for toxicity is a crucial step in the drug discovery pipeline. It can help filter out molecules with a high probability of failing in the early stages of de novo drug design. Thus, several machine learning (ML) models have been developed to predict the toxicity of molecules by combining classical ML techniques or deep neural networks with well-known molecular representations such as fingerprints or 2D graphs. But the more natural, accurate representation of molecules is expected to be defined in physical 3D space like in ab initio methods. Recent studies successfully used equivariant graph neural networks (EGNNs) for representation learning based on 3D structures to predict quantum mechanical properties of molecules. Inspired by this, we investigate the performance of EGNNs to construct reliable ML models for toxicity prediction. We use the equivariant transformer (ET) model in TorchMD-NET for this. Eleven toxicity datasets taken from MoleculeNet, TDCommons, and ToxBenchmark have been considered to evaluate the capability of ET for toxicity prediction. Our results show that ET adequately learns 3D representations of molecules that can successfully correlate with toxicity activity, achieving good accuracies on most datasets comparable to state-of-the-art models. We also test a physicochemical property, namely the total energy of a molecule, to inform the toxicity prediction with a physical prior. However, our work suggests these two properties can not be related. We also provide an attention weight analysis for helping to understand the toxicity prediction in 3D space and, thus, increase the explainability of the ML model. In summary, our findings offer promising insights considering 3D geometry information via EGNNs and provide a straightforward way to integrate molecular conformers into ML-based pipelines for predicting and investigating toxicity prediction in physical space. We expect that in the future, especially for larger, more diverse datasets, EGNNs will be an essential tool in this domain.


Machine Learning
Equivariant Graph Neural Networks

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Materials
Training details for the toxicity prediction model and dataset statistics


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