DeepGOZero: improving protein function prediction from sequence and zero-shot learning based on ontology axioms

Maxat Kulmanov, Robert Hoehndorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Motivation: Protein functions are often described using the Gene Ontology (GO) which is an ontology consisting of over 50 000 classes and a large set of formal axioms. Predicting the functions of proteins is one of the key challenges in computational biology and a variety of machine learning methods have been developed for this purpose. However, these methods usually require a significant amount of training data and cannot make predictions for GO classes that have only few or no experimental annotations. Results: We developed DeepGOZero, a machine learning model which improves predictions for functions with no or only a small number of annotations. To achieve this goal, we rely on a model-theoretic approach for learning ontology embeddings and combine it with neural networks for protein function prediction. DeepGOZero can exploit formal axioms in the GO to make zero-shot predictions, i.e., predict protein functions even if not a single protein in the training phase was associated with that function. Furthermore, the zero-shot prediction method employed by DeepGOZero is generic and can be applied whenever associations with ontology classes need to be predicted.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)i238-i245
JournalBioinformatics (Oxford, England)
Issue numberSupplement_1
StatePublished - Jun 27 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Computer Science Applications


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