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Bioinformatics. 2020 Mar 18. pii: btaa195. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btaa195. [Epub ahead of print]

Position-wise binding preference is important for miRNA target site prediction.

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Department of Computer Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA.
Burnett School of Biomedical Science, College of Medicine, University of Central Orlando, FL, USA.



Motivation: It is a fundamental task to identify microRNAs (miRNA) targets and accurately locate their target sites. Genome-scale experiments for miRNA target site detection are still costly. The prediction accuracies of existing computational algorithms and tools are often not up to the expectation due to a large number of false positives. One major obstacle to achieve a higher accuracy is the lack of knowledge of the target binding features of miRNAs. The published high-throughput experimental data provide an opportunity to analyze position-wise preference of miRNAs in terms of target binding, which can be an important feature in miRNA target prediction algorithms.


We developed a Markov model to characterize position-wise pairing patterns of miRNA-target interactions. We further integrated this model as a scoring method and developed a dynamic programming (DP) algorithm, MDPS (Markov model-scored Dynamic Programming algorithm for miRNA target site Selection) that can screen putative target sites of miRNA-target binding. The MDPS algorithm thus can take into account both the dependency of neighboring pairing positions and the global pairing information. Based on the trained Markov models from both miRNA specific and general datasets, we discovered that the position-wise binding information specific to a given miRNA would benefit its target prediction. We also found that miRNAs maintain region-wise similarity in their target binding patterns. Combining MDPS with existing methods significantly improves their precision while only slightly reduces their recall. Therefore, position-wise pairing patterns have the promise to improve target prediction if incorporated into existing software tools.


The source code and tool to calculate MDPS score is available at


Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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