Semi-supervised Learning Predicts Approximately One Third of the Alternative Splicing Isoforms as Functional Proteins

Cell Reports, Volume 12, Issue 2, p183–189,

Cell Reports, online article

Alternative splicing acts on transcripts from almost all human multi-exon genes. Notwithstanding its ubiquity, fundamental ramifications of splicing on protein expression remain unresolved. The number and identity of spliced transcripts that form stably folded proteins remain the sources of considerable debate, due largely to low coverage of experimental methods and the resulting absence of negative data. We circumvent this issue by developing a semi-supervised learning algorithm, positive unlabeled learning for splicing elucidation (PULSE;, which uses 48 features spanning various categories. We validated its accuracy on sets of bona fide protein isoforms and directly on mass spectrometry (MS) spectra for an overall AU-ROC of 0.85. We predict that around 32% of “exon skipping” alternative splicing events produce stable proteins, suggesting that the process engenders a significant number of previously uncharacterized proteins. We also provide insights into the distribution of positive isoforms in various functional classes and into the structural effects of alternative splicing.


TU München
Helmholtz München
MPI of Neurobiology
MPI of Biochemistry