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Scientific background

Performance of the prediction methods

Performance evaluation of any prediction method is an important issue. For direct comparison to SignalP version 1 and 2 we chose to evaluate the method by five-fold cross-validation. As an independent performance meassure we use part of the data set generated by Menne et al., 2000, Bioinformatics. This test set was only used in comparison with other signal peptide prediction methods.

Performance of SignalP using five-fold cross-validation

SignalP is the most powerful prediction method for signal peptides published. In order to compare the strength of the neural network approach to the weight matrix method, we recalculated new weight matrices from the new data and tested the performance of these. The weight matrix method was comparable to the neural networks when calculating C-score, but was practically unable to solve the S-score problem and therefore did not provide the possibility of calculating the combined Y-score. The ability to distinguish signal anchors from signal peptides has not been evaluated for any of the earlier published methods for signal peptide recognition.

The best prediction of cleavage site location is provided by the position of the Y-score maximum. The best prediction of sequence type (signal peptide or non-secretory protein) is given by the mean S-score (the average of the S-score in the region between position 1 and the position immediately before the Y-score maximum): if mean S-score is larger than 0.5, the sequence is predicted to be a signal peptide (see the plot under ``Results: Identification of signal anchors''). When using these estimates, we obtain the predictive qualities given in the table below.

These prediction performances are minimal values. They are measured on the test sets (i.e. data which were not used to train the networks), and due to the redundancy reduction of the data, the sequence similarity between training and test sets is so low that the correct cleavage sites cannot be found by homology. Consequently, the prediction accuracy on sequences with some degree of homology to the sequences in the data sets will in general be higher.

Version Cleavage site location Signal peptide discrimination
EUK Gram- Gram+ EUK Gram- Gram+
SignalP 1 NN 70.2 79.3 67.9 0.97 0.88 0.96
SignalP 2 NN 72.44 83.43 67.46 0.97 0.90 0.96
SignalP 2 HMM 69.51 83.43 64.50 0.94 0.93 0.96
SignalP 3 NN 79.03 92.46 84.97 0.98 0.95 0.98
SignalP 3 HMM 75.70 90.22 81.58 0.94 0.94 0.98

All three versions of Signal compared. Cleavage site is reported in % whereas discrimination is reported as correlation coefficients. Discrimination in version 3.0 was based on the D-score.

Performance of SignalP using an independent test set

We have also tested the performance of the prediction method on an independent test. (Menne et al. 2000, Bioinformatics.) The comparison of the SignalP method to other available method can be found in the research paper. The abstract can be found

Identification of signal anchors

Smean distributions

Above is shown the distribution of the mean S-score for three different protein types: Signal peptides, Non-secretory proteins (the N-terminal parts of cytoplasmic or nuclear proteins), and Signal anchors (the N-terminal parts of type II membrane proteins). Only eukaryotic data are shown here.

Signal anchors are also referred to as uncleaved signal peptides. However, they often have sites similar to signal peptide cleavage sites after their hydrophobic (transmembrane) region. Therefore, a prediction method can easily be expected to mistake signal anchors for peptides.

The mean S-score for signal anchors shows some overlap with the signal peptide distribution (50% of the eukaryotic signal anchor sequences have mean S-scores larger than 0.5). However, signal anchors are generally significantly longer than signal peptides. By excluding signal peptides longer than 35 residues (and using a slightly larger cutoff), 72% of the eukaryotic signal anchor sequences are correctly classified. (Only 2.2% of the cleaved eukaryotic signal peptides in our data set are longer than 35 residues).


Jannick Dyrløv Bendtsen,