Delta Machine Learning to Improve Scoring-Ranking-Screening Performances of Protein-Ligand Scoring Functions

Chao Yang, Yingkai Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protein-ligand scoring functions are widely used in structure-based drug design for fast evaluation of protein-ligand interactions, and it is of strong interest to develop scoring functions with machine-learning approaches. In this work, by expanding the training set, developing physically meaningful features, employing our recently developed linear empirical scoring function Lin_F9 (Yang, C. et al. J. Chem. Inf. Model. 2021, 61, 4630-4644) as the baseline, and applying extreme gradient boosting (XGBoost) with Δ-machine learning, we have further improved the robustness and applicability of machine-learning scoring functions. Besides the top performances for scoring-ranking-screening power tests of the CASF-2016 benchmark, the new scoring function ΔLin_F9XGB also achieves superior scoring and ranking performances in different structure types that mimic real docking applications. The scoring powers of ΔLin_F9XGB for locally optimized poses, flexible redocked poses, and ensemble docked poses of the CASF-2016 core set achieve Pearson's correlation coefficient (R) values of 0.853, 0.839, and 0.813, respectively. In addition, the large-scale docking-based virtual screening test on the LIT-PCBA data set demonstrates the reliability and robustness of ΔLin_F9XGB in virtual screening application. The ΔLin_F9XGB scoring function and its code are freely available on the web at (

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2696-2712
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 13 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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