LightGBM: An Effective and Scalable Algorithm for Prediction of Chemical Toxicity–Application to the Tox21 and Mutagenicity Data Sets

Machine learning algorithms have attained widespread use in assessing the potential toxicities of pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals because of their faster speed and lower cost compared to experimental bioassays. Gradient boosting is an effective algorithm that often achieves high predictivity, but historically the relative long computational time limited its applications in predicting large compound libraries or developing in silico predictive models that require frequent retraining. LightGBM, a recent improvement of the gradient boosting algorithm, inherited its high predictivity but resolved its scalability and long computational time by adopting a leaf-wise tree growth strategy and introducing novel techniques. In this study, we compared the predictive performance and the computational time of LightGBM to deep neural networks, random forests, support vector machines, and XGBoost. All algorithms were rigorously evaluated on publicly available Tox21 and mutagenicity data sets using a Bayesian optimization integrated nested 10-fold cross-validation scheme that performs hyperparameter optimization while examining model generalizability and transferability to new data. The evaluation results demonstrated that LightGBM is an effective and highly scalable algorithm offering the best predictive performance while consuming significantly shorter computational time than the other investigated algorithms across all Tox21 and mutagenicity data sets. We recommend LightGBM for applications of in silico safety assessment and also other areas of cheminformatics to fulfill the ever-growing demand for accurate and rapid prediction of various toxicity or activity related end points of large compound libraries present in the pharmaceutical and chemical industry.