KinMutRF: a random forest classifier of sequence variants in the human protein kinase superfamily

Tirso Pons, Miguel Vazquez, María Luisa Matey-Hernandez, Søren Brunak, Alfonso Valencia, Jose Maria Gonzalez-Izarzugaza

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    Background: The association between aberrant signal processing by protein kinases and human diseases such as cancer was established long time ago. However, understanding the link between sequence variants in the protein kinase superfamily and the mechanistic complex traits at the molecular level remains challenging: cells tolerate most genomic alterations and only a minor fraction disrupt molecular function sufficiently and drive disease. Results: KinMutRF is a novel random-forest method to automatically identify pathogenic variants in human kinases. Twenty six decision trees implemented as a random forest ponder a battery of features that characterize the variants: a) at the gene level, including membership to a Kinbase group and Gene Ontology terms; b) at the PFAM domain level; and c) at the residue level, the types of amino acids involved, changes in biochemical properties, functional annotations from UniProt, Phospho.ELM and FireDB. KinMutRF identifies disease-associated variants satisfactorily (Acc: 0.88, Prec:0.82, Rec:0.75, F-score:0.78, MCC:0.68) when trained and cross-validated with the 3689 human kinase variants from UniProt that have been annotated as neutral or pathogenic. All unclassified variants were excluded from the training set. Furthermore, KinMutRF is discussed with respect to two independent kinase-specific sets of mutations no included in the training and testing, Kin-Driver (643 variants) and Pon-BTK (1495 variants). Moreover, we provide predictions for the 848 protein kinase variants in UniProt that remained unclassified. A public implementation of KinMutRF, including documentation and examples, is available online ( The source code for local installation is released under a GPL version 3 license, and can be downloaded from Conclusions: KinMutRF is capable of classifying kinase variation with good performance. Predictions by KinMutRF compare favorably in a benchmark with other state-of-the-art methods (i.e. SIFT, Polyphen-2, MutationAssesor, MutationTaster, LRT, CADD, FATHMM, and VEST). Kinase-specific features rank as the most elucidatory in terms of information gain and are likely the improvement in prediction performance. This advocates for the development of family-specific classifiers able to exploit the discriminatory power of features unique to individual protein families.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number396
    JournalBMC Genomics
    Issue numberSuppl. 2
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Bibliographical note

    © 2016 Pons et al. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


    • Protein kinases
    • Variant prioritization
    • Pathogenicity prediction
    • Functional impact
    • X-linked agammaglobulinemia


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