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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Identification of microRNA precursors based on random forest with network-level representation method of stem-loop structure

Jiamin Xiao, Xiaojing Tang, Yizhou Li, Zheng Fang, Daichuan Ma, Yangzhige He and Menglong Li*

  • * Corresponding author: Menglong Li

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

College of Chemistry and State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, P.R. China

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-165

Published: 17 May 2011



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a key role in regulating various biological processes such as participating in the post-transcriptional pathway and affecting the stability and/or the translation of mRNA. Current methods have extracted feature information at different levels, among which the characteristic stem-loop structure makes the greatest contribution to the prediction of putative miRNA precursor (pre-miRNA). We find that none of these features alone is capable of identifying new pre-miRNA accurately.


In the present work, a pre-miRNA stem-loop secondary structure is translated to a network, which provides a novel perspective for its structural analysis. Network parameters are used to construct prediction model, achieving an area under the receiver operating curves (AUC) value of 0.956. Moreover, by repeating the same method on two independent datasets, accuracies of 0.976 and 0.913 are achieved, respectively.


Network parameters effectively characterize pre-miRNA secondary structure, which improves our prediction model in both prediction ability and computation efficiency. Additionally, as a complement to feature extraction methods in previous studies, these multifaceted features can reflect natural properties of miRNAs and be used for comprehensive and systematic analysis on miRNA.