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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Prediction of guide strand of microRNAs from its sequence and secondary structure

Firoz Ahmed, Hifzur Rahman Ansari and Gajendra PS Raghava*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics Centre, Institute of Microbial Technology, Sector 39-A, Chandigarh, India

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BMC Bioinformatics 2009, 10:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-105

Published: 9 April 2009



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are produced by the sequential processing of a long hairpin RNA transcript by Drosha and Dicer, an RNase III enzymes, and form transitory small RNA duplexes. One strand of the duplex, which incorporates into RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) and silences the gene expression is called guide strand, or miRNA; while the other strand of duplex is degraded and called the passenger strand, or miRNA*. Predicting the guide strand of miRNA is important for better understanding the RNA interference pathways.


This paper describes support vector machine (SVM) models developed for predicting the guide strands of miRNAs. All models were trained and tested on a dataset consisting of 329 miRNA and 329 miRNA* pairs using five fold cross validation technique. Firstly, models were developed using mono-, di-, and tri-nucleotide composition of miRNA strands and achieved the highest accuracies of 0.588, 0.638 and 0.596 respectively. Secondly, models were developed using split nucleotide composition and achieved maximum accuracies of 0.553, 0.641 and 0.602 for mono-, di-, and tri-nucleotide respectively. Thirdly, models were developed using binary pattern and achieved the highest accuracy of 0.708. Furthermore, when integrating the secondary structure features with binary pattern, an accuracy of 0.719 was seen. Finally, hybrid models were developed by combining various features and achieved maximum accuracy of 0.799 with sensitivity 0.781 and specificity 0.818. Moreover, the performance of this model was tested on an independent dataset that achieved an accuracy of 0.80. In addition, we also compared the performance of our method with various siRNA-designing methods on miRNA and siRNA datasets.


In this study, first time a method has been developed to predict guide miRNA strands, of miRNA duplex. This study demonstrates that guide and passenger strand of miRNA precursors can be distinguished using their nucleotide sequence and secondary structure. This method will be useful in understanding microRNA processing and can be implemented in RNA silencing technology to improve the biological and clinical research. A web server has been developed based on SVM models described in this study webcite.