Identifying mouse developmental essential genes using machine learning

David Tian, Stephanie Wenlock, Mitra Kabir, George Tzotzos, Andrew Doig, Kathryn Hentges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The genes that are required for organismal survival are annotated as ‘essential genes’. Identifying all the essential genes of an animal species can reveal critical functions that are needed during the development of the organism. To inform studies of mouse development, we developed a supervised machine learning classifier based on phenotype data from mouse knockout experiments. We used this classifier to predict the essentiality of mouse genes lacking experimental data. Validation of our predictions against a blind test set of recent mouse knockout experimental data indicates a high level of accuracy (>80%). We also validated our predictions for other mouse mutagenesis methodologies, demonstrating that the predictions are accurate for lethal phenotypes isolated in random chemical mutagenesis screens and embryonic stem cell screens. The biological functions that are enriched in essential and non-essential genes have been identified, showing that essential genes tend to encode intracellular proteins that interact with nucleic acids. The genome distribution of predicted essential and non-essential genes was analysed, demonstrating that the density of essential genes varies throughout the genome. A comparison with human essential and non-essential genes was performed, revealing conservation between human and mouse gene essentiality status. Our genome-wide predictions of mouse essential genes will be of value for the planning of mouse knockout experiments and phenotyping assays, for understanding the functional processes required during mouse development, and for the prioritisation of disease candidate genes identified in human genome and exome sequence datasets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Early online date13 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • essential genes
  • supervised machine learning
  • mouse knockout
  • essentiality database

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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