Filippo Grazioli works at NEC Laboratories Europe.


Disentangled Wasserstein Autoencoder for T-Cell Receptor Engineering

In protein biophysics, the separation between the functionally important residues (forming the active site or binding surface) and those that create the overall structure (the fold) is a well-established and fundamental concept. Identifying and modifying those functional sites is critical for protein engineering but computationally nontrivial, and requires significant domain knowledge. To automate this process from a data-driven perspective, we propose a disentangled Wasserstein autoencoder with an auxiliary classifier, which isolates the function-related patterns from the rest with theoretical guarantees. This enables one-pass protein sequence editing and improves the understanding of the resulting sequences and editing actionsinvolved. To demonstrate its effectiveness, we apply it to T-cell receptors (TCRs), a well-studied structure-function case. We show that our method can be used to alterthe function of TCRs without changing the structural backbone, outperforming several competing methods in generation quality and efficiency, and requiring only 10% of the running time needed by baseline models. To our knowledge, this is the first approach that utilizes disentangled representations for TCR engineering.

On TCR Binding Predictors Failing to Generalize to Unseen Peptides

Several recent studies investigate TCR-peptide/-pMHC binding prediction using machine learning or deep learning approaches. Many of these methods achieve impressive results on test sets, which include peptide sequences that are also included in the training set. In this work, we investigate how state of the-art deep learning models for TCR-peptide/-pMHC binding prediction generalize to unseen peptides. We create a dataset including positive samples from IEDB, VDJdb, McPAS-TCR, and the MIRA set, as well as negative samples from both randomization and 10X Genomics assays. We name this collection of samples TChard. We propose the hard split, a simple heuristic for training/test split, which ensures that test samples exclusively present peptides that do not belong to the training set. We investigate the effect of different training/test splitting techniques on the models’ test performance, as well as the effect of training and testing the models using mismatched negative samples generated randomly, in addition to the negative samples derived from assays. Our results show that modern deep learning methods fail to generalize to unseen peptides. We provide an explanation why this happens and verify our hypothesis on the TChard dataset. We then conclude that robust prediction of TCR recognition is still far for being solved.

Attentive Variational Information Bottleneck for TCR–peptide interaction prediction

We present a multi-sequence generalization of Variational Information Bottleneck and call the resulting model Attentive Variational Information Bottleneck (AVIB). Our AVIB model leverages multi-head self-attention to implicitly approximate a posterior distribution over latent encodings conditioned on multiple input sequences. We apply AVIB to a fundamental immuno-oncology problem: predicting the interactions between T-cell receptors (TCRs) and peptides.ResultsExperimental results on various datasets show that AVIB significantly outperforms state-of-the-art methods for TCR–peptide interaction prediction. Additionally, we show that the latent posterior distribution learned by AVIB is particularly effective for the unsupervised detection of out-of-distribution amino acid sequences.