GraphormerDTI: A graph transformer-based approach for drug-target interaction prediction

Mengmeng Gao, Daokun Zhang, Yi Chen, Yiwen Zhang, Zhikang Wang, Xiaoyu Wang, Shanshan Li, Yuming Guo, Geoffrey I. Webb, Anh T.N. Nguyen, Lauren May, Jiangning Song

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to screen drug molecules with potential therapeutic effects has revolutionized the drug discovery process, with significantly lower economic cost and time consumption than the traditional drug discovery pipeline. With the great power of AI, it is possible to rapidly search the vast chemical space for potential drug-target interactions (DTIs) between candidate drug molecules and disease protein targets. However, only a small proportion of molecules have labelled DTIs, consequently limiting the performance of AI-based drug screening. To solve this problem, a machine learning-based approach with great ability to generalize DTI prediction across molecules is desirable. Many existing machine learning approaches for DTI identification failed to exploit the full information with respect to the topological structures of candidate molecules. To develop a better approach for DTI prediction, we propose GraphormerDTI, which employs the powerful Graph Transformer neural network to model molecular structures. GraphormerDTI embeds molecular graphs into vector-format representations through iterative Transformer-based message passing, which encodes molecules' structural characteristics by node centrality encoding, node spatial encoding and edge encoding. With a strong structural inductive bias, the proposed GraphormerDTI approach can effectively infer informative representations for out-of-sample molecules and as such, it is capable of predicting DTIs across molecules with an exceptional performance. GraphormerDTI integrates the Graph Transformer neural network with a 1-dimensional Convolutional Neural Network (1D-CNN) to extract the drugs' and target proteins' representations and leverages an attention mechanism to model the interactions between them. To examine GraphormerDTI's performance for DTI prediction, we conduct experiments on three benchmark datasets, where GraphormerDTI achieves a superior performance than five state-of-the-art baselines for out-of-molecule DTI prediction, including GNN-CPI, GNN-PT, DeepEmbedding-DTI, MolTrans and HyperAttentionDTI, and is on a par with the best baseline for transductive DTI prediction. The source codes and datasets are publicly accessible at

Original languageEnglish
Article number108339
JournalComputers in Biology and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - May 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention mechanism
  • Deep learning
  • Drug-target interaction
  • Graph transformer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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