Prioritizing pain-associated targets with machine learning

Minji Jeon, Kathleen M. Jagodnik, Eryk Kropiwnicki, Daniel J. Stein, Avi Ma'ayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


While hundreds of genes have been associated with pain, much of the molecular mechanisms of pain remain unknown. As a result, current analgesics are limited to few clinically validated targets. Here, we trained a machine learning (ML) ensemble model to predict new targets for 17 categories of pain. The model utilizes features from transcriptomics, proteomics, and gene ontology to prioritize targets for modulating pain. We focused on identifying novel G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), ion channels, and protein kinases because these proteins represent the most successful drug target families. The performance of the model to predict novel pain targets is 0.839 on average based on AUROC, while the predictions for arthritis had the highest accuracy (AUROC = 0.929). The model predicts hundreds of novel targets for pain; for example, GPR132 and GPR109B are highly ranked GPCRs for rheumatoid arthritis. Overall, gene-pain association predictions cluster into three groups that are enriched for cytokine, calcium, and GABA-related cell signaling pathways. These predictions can serve as a foundation for future experimental exploration to advance the development of safer and more effective analgesics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1430-1446
Number of pages17
Issue number18
StatePublished - 11 May 2021
Externally publishedYes

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© 2021 American Chemical Society.


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