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Computational analysis and predictive modeling of small molecule modulators of microRNA



MicroRNAs (miRNA) are small endogenously transcribed regulatory RNA which modulates gene expression at a post transcriptional level. These small RNAs have now been shown to be critical regulators in a number of biological processes in the cell including pathophysiology of diseases like cancers. The increasingly evident roles of microRNA in disease processes have also motivated attempts to target them therapeutically. Recently there has been immense interest in understanding small molecule mediated regulation of RNA, including microRNA.


We have used publicly available datasets of high throughput screens on small molecules with potential to inhibit microRNA. We employed computational methods based on chemical descriptors and machine learning to create predictive computational models for biological activity of small molecules. We further used a substructure based approach to understand common substructures potentially contributing to the activity.


We generated computational models based on Naïve Bayes and Random Forest towards mining small RNA binding molecules from large molecular datasets. We complement this with substructure based approach to identify and understand potentially enriched substructures in the active dataset. We use this approach to identify miRNA binding potential of a set of approved drugs, suggesting a probable novel mechanism of off-target activity of these drugs. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first and most comprehensive computational analysis towards understanding RNA binding activities of small molecules and predictive modeling of these activities.