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ML2Motif—Reliable extraction of discriminative sequence motifs from learning machines

Vidovic, Marina Marie-Claire; Kloft, Marius; Müller, Klaus-Robert; Görnitz, Nico

High prediction accuracies are not the only objective to consider when solving problems using machine learning. Instead, particular scientific applications require some explanation of the learned prediction function. For computational biology, positional oligomer importance matrices (POIMs) have been successfully applied to explain the decision of support vector machines (SVMs) using weighted-degree (WD) kernels. To extract relevant biological motifs from POIMs, the motifPOIM method has been devised and showed promising results on real-world data. Our contribution in this paper is twofold: as an extension to POIMs, we propose gPOIM, a general measure of feature importance for arbitrary learning machines and feature sets (including, but not limited to, SVMs and CNNs) and devise a sampling strategy for efficient computation. As a second contribution, we derive a convex formulation of motifPOIMs that leads to more reliable motif extraction from gPOIMs. Empirical evaluations confirm the usefulness of our approach on artificially generated data as well as on real-world datasets.
Published in: PLOS ONE, 10.1371/journal.pone.0174392, Public Library of Science (PLOS)