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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27422. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027422. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

MaturePred: efficient identification of microRNAs within novel plant pre-miRNAs.

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Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, People's Republic of China.



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a set of short (19∼24 nt) non-coding RNAs that play significant roles as posttranscriptional regulators in animals and plants. The ab initio prediction methods show excellent performance for discovering new pre-miRNAs. While most of these methods can distinguish real pre-miRNAs from pseudo pre-miRNAs, few can predict the positions of miRNAs. Among the existing methods that can also predict the miRNA positions, most of them are designed for mammalian miRNAs, including human and mouse. Minority of methods can predict the positions of plant miRNAs. Accurate prediction of the miRNA positions remains a challenge, especially for plant miRNAs. This motivates us to develop MaturePred, a machine learning method based on support vector machine, to predict the positions of plant miRNAs for the new plant pre-miRNA candidates.


A miRNA:miRNA* duplex is regarded as a whole to capture the binding characteristics of miRNAs. We extract the position-specific features, the energy related features, the structure related features, and stability related features from real/pseudo miRNA:miRNA* duplexes. A set of informative features are selected to improve the prediction accuracy. Two-stage sample selection algorithm is proposed to combat the serious imbalance problem between real and pseudo miRNA:miRNA* duplexes. The prediction method, MaturePred, can accurately predict plant miRNAs and achieve higher prediction accuracy compared with the existing methods. Further, we trained a prediction model with animal data to predict animal miRNAs. The model also achieves higher prediction performance. It further confirms the efficiency of our miRNA prediction method.


The superior performance of the proposed prediction model can be attributed to the extracted features of plant miRNAs and miRNA*s, the selected training dataset, and the carefully selected features. The web service of MaturePred, the training datasets, the testing datasets, and the selected features are freely available at

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