A new method to study the change of miRNA-mRNA interactions due to environmental exposures

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Abstract

Motivation:

Integrative approaches characterizing the interactions among different types of biological molecules have been demonstrated to be useful for revealing informative biological mechanisms. One such example is the interaction between microRNA (miRNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA), whose deregulation may be sensitive to environmental insult leading to altered phenotypes. The goal of this work is to develop an effective data integration method to characterize deregulation between miRNA and mRNA due to environmental toxicant exposures. We will use data from an animal experiment designed to investigate the effect of low-dose environmental chemical exposure on normal mammary gland development in rats to motivate and evaluate the proposed method.

Results:

We propose a new network approach—integrative Joint Random Forest (iJRF), which characterizes the regulatory system between miRNAs and mRNAs using a network model. iJRF is designed to work under the high-dimension low-sample-size regime, and can borrow information across different treatment conditions to achieve more accurate network inference. It also effectively takes into account prior information of miRNA-mRNA regulatory relationships from existing databases. When iJRF is applied to the data from the environmental chemical exposure study, we detected a few important miRNAs that regulated a large number of mRNAs in the control group but not in the exposed groups, suggesting the disruption of miRNA activity due to chemical exposure. Effects of chemical exposure on two affected miRNAs were further validated using breast cancer human cell lines.

Availability and implementation:

R package iJRF is available at CRAN.

Contacts:

pei.wang@mssm.edu or susan.teitelbaum@mssm.edu

Supplementary information:

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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