Many different types of generative models for protein sequences have been proposed in literature. Their uses include the prediction of mutational effects, protein design and the prediction of structural properties. Neural network (NN) architectures have shown great performances, commonly attributed to the capacity to extract non-trivial higher-order interactions from the data. In this work, we analyze two different NN models and assess how close they are to simple pairwise distributions, which have been used in the past for similar problems. We present an approach for extracting pairwise models from more complex ones using an energy-based modeling framework. We show that for the tested models the extracted pairwise models can replicate the energies of the original models and are also close in performance in tasks like mutational effect prediction. In addition, we show that even simpler, factorized models often come close in performance to the original models.
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