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Open Access Research article

Similarity-based methods for potential human microRNA-disease association prediction

Hailin Chen12 and Zuping Zhang1*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Information Science and Engineering, Central South University, Changsha, 410083, China

2 Department of Computer Science and Technology, Hunan University of Humanities, Science and Technology, Loudi, 417000, China

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BMC Medical Genomics 2013, 6:12  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-6-12

Published: 9 April 2013



The identification of microRNA-disease associations is critical for understanding the molecular mechanisms of diseases. However, experimental determination of associations between microRNAs and diseases remains challenging. Meanwhile, target diseases need to be revealed for some new microRNAs without any known target disease association information as new microRNAs are discovered each year. Therefore, computational methods for microRNA-disease association prediction have gained a lot of research interest.


Herein, based on the assumption that functionally related microRNAs tend to be associated with phenotypically similar diseases, three inference methods were presented for microRNA-disease association prediction, namely MBSI (microRNA-based similarity inference), PBSI (phenotype-based similarity inference) and NetCBI (network-consistency-based inference). Global network similarity measure was used in the three methods to predict new microRNA-disease associations.


We tested the three methods on 242 known microRNA-disease associations by leave-one-out cross-validation for prediction evaluation, and achieved AUC values of 74.83%, 54.02% and 80.66%, respectively. The best-performed method NetCBI was then chosen for novel microRNA-disease association prediction. Some associations strongly predicted by NetCBI were confirmed by the publicly accessible databases, which indicated the usefulness of this method. The newly predicted associations were publicly released to facilitate future studies. Moreover, NetCBI was especially applicable to predicting target diseases for microRNAs whose target association information was not available.


The encouraging results suggest that our method NetCBI can not only provide help in identifying novel microRNA-disease associations but also guide biological experiments for scientific research.

MicroRNA-disease association prediction; Network similarity; Network consistency