MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play crucial roles in post-transcriptional regulations and various cellular processes. The identification of disease-related miRNAs provides great insights into the underlying pathogenesis of diseases at a system level. However, most existing computational approaches are biased towards known miRNA-disease associations, which is inappropriate for those new diseases or miRNAs without any known association information.


In this study, we propose a new method with graph regularized non-negative matrix factorization in heterogeneous omics data, called GRNMF, to discover potential associations between miRNAs and diseases, especially for new diseases and miRNAs or those diseases and miRNAs with sparse known associations. First, we integrate the disease semantic information and miRNA functional information to estimate disease similarity and miRNA similarity, respectively. Considering that there is no available interaction observed for new diseases or miRNAs, a preprocessing step is developed to construct the interaction score profiles that will assist in prediction. Next, a graph regularized non-negative matrix factorization framework is utilized to simultaneously identify potential associations for all diseases. The results indicated that our proposed method can effectively prioritize disease-associated miRNAs with higher accuracy compared with other recent approaches. Moreover, case studies also demonstrated the effectiveness of GRNMF to infer unknown miRNA-disease associations for those novel diseases and miRNAs.

Availability and implementation

The code of GRNMF is freely available at

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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