Institute of Crystallography - CNR

Ligand-based prediction of hERG-mediated cardiotoxicity based on the integration of different machine learning techniques

Drug-induced cardiotoxicity is a common side effect of drugs in clinical use or under postmarket surveillance and is commonly due to off-target interactions with the cardiac human-ether-a-go-go-related (hERG) potassium channel. Therefore, prioritizing drug candidates based on their hERG blocking potential is a mandatory step in the early preclinical stage of a drug discovery program. Herein, we trained and properly validated 30 ligand-based classifiers of hERG-related cardiotoxicity based on 7,963 curated compounds extracted by the freely accessible repository ChEMBL (version 25). Different machine learning algorithms were tested, namely, random forest, K-nearest neighbors, gradient boosting, extreme gradient boosting, multilayer perceptron, and support vector machine. The application of 1) the best practices for data curation, 2) the feature selection method VSURF, and 3) the synthetic minority oversampling technique (SMOTE) to properly handle the unbalanced data, allowed for the development of highly predictive models (BA = 0.91, AUC = 0.95). Remarkably, the undertaken temporal validation approach not only supported the predictivity of the herein presented classifiers but also suggested their ability to outperform those models commonly used in the literature. From a more methodological point of view, the study put forward a new computational workflow, freely available in the GitHub repository (, as valuable for building highly predictive models of hERG-mediated cardiotoxicity.

Frontiers in Pharmacology
Impact factor
Delre, Pietro; Lavado, Giovanna J.; Lamanna, Giuseppe; Saviano, Michele; Roncaglioni, Alessandra; Benfenati, Emilio; Mangiatordi, Giuseppe Felice; Gadaleta, Domenico