MicroRNA-augmented pathways (mirAP) and their applications to pathway analysis and disease subtyping


MicroRNAs play important roles in the development of many complex diseases. Because of their importance, the analysis of signaling pathways including miRNA interactions holds the potential for unveiling the mechanisms underlying such diseases. However, current signaling pathway databases are limited to interactions between genes and ignore miRNAs. Here, we use the information on miRNA targets to build a database of miRNA-augmented pathways (mirAP), and we show its application in the contexts of integrative pathway analysis and disease subtyping. Our miRNA-mRNA integrative pathway analysis pipeline incorporates a topology-aware approach that we previously implemented. Our integrative disease subtyping pipeline takes into account survival data, gene and miRNA expression, and knowledge of the interactions among genes. We demonstrate the advantages of our approach by analyzing nine sample-matched datasets that provide both miRNA and mRNA expression. We show that integrating miRNAs into pathway analysis results in greater statistical power, and provides a more comprehensive view of the underlying phenomena. We also compare our disease subtyping method with the state-of-the-art integrative analysis by analyzing a colorectal cancer database from TCGA. The colorectal cancer subtypes identified by our approach are significantly different in terms of their survival expectation. These miRNA-augmented pathways offer a more comprehensive view and a deeper understanding of biological pathways. A better understanding of the molecular processes associated with patients’ survival can help to a better prognosis and an appropriate treatment for each subtype.

Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing