 Research article
 Open Access
 Published:
LDNFSGB: prediction of long noncoding rna and disease association using network feature similarity and gradient boosting
BMC Bioinformatics volume 21, Article number: 377 (2020)
Abstract
Background
A large number of experimental studies show that the mutation and regulation of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are associated with various human diseases. Accurate prediction of lncRNAdisease associations can provide a new perspective for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The main function of many lncRNAs is still unclear and using traditional experiments to detect lncRNAdisease associations is timeconsuming.
Results
In this paper, we develop a novel and effective method for the prediction of lncRNAdisease associations using network feature similarity and gradient boosting (LDNFSGB). In LDNFSGB, we first construct a comprehensive feature vector to effectively extract the global and local information of lncRNAs and diseases through considering the disease semantic similarity (DISSS), the lncRNA function similarity (LNCFS), the lncRNA Gaussian interaction profile kernel similarity (LNCGS), the disease Gaussian interaction profile kernel similarity (DISGS), and the lncRNAdisease interaction (LNCDIS). Particularly, two methods are used to calculate the DISSS (LNCFS) for considering the local and global information of disease semantics (lncRNA functions) respectively. An autoencoder is then used to reduce the dimensionality of the feature vector to obtain the optimal feature parameter from the original feature set. Furthermore, we employ the gradient boosting algorithm to obtain the lncRNAdisease association prediction.
Conclusions
In this study, holdout, leaveoneout crossvalidation, and tenfold crossvalidation methods are implemented on three publicly available datasets to evaluate the performance of LDNFSGB. Extensive experiments show that LDNFSGB dramatically outperforms other stateoftheart methods. The case studies on six diseases, including cancers and noncancers, further demonstrate the effectiveness of our method in realworld applications.
Background
Cumulative evidence shows that only ∼2 percent of proteincoding genes are in the human genome and the remaining ∼98 percent of the human genome are classified as noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) [1]. Many studies in recent years suggest that the interaction of ncRNA and protein has a positive effect on many biological processes, such as protein synthesis, gene expression, RNA processing, and development regulation [2]. Based on the expression and function, ncRNAs are divided into ribosomal RNA, transfer RNA, small nuclear RNA, and small nucleoli RNA [3]. According to its size, regulatory ncRNAs can be further classified as small ncRNA (∼1831nt, such as miRNA, siRNA, and piRNA), medium ncRNA (∼31200nt) and long ncRNA (from 200nt up to several hundred kb, such as lincRNA and microRNA) [4].
Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) play an increasingly important role in some fundamental biological processes such as translational regulation, cell cycle regulation, epigenetic regulation, splicing, differentiation, and immune response [5]. For example, GAS5 inhibits cell invasion and tumor growth [6]. HOTAIR, a 2.2 kb gene in the HOXC locus, plays a key role in epigenetic regulation in cancer [7]. Especially, many studies demonstrate that mutations and disorders of lncRNAs are associated with human complex diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), glioma, breast cancer, psychiatric disease, cardiovascular disease, AIDS, and glaucoma [8]. For example, the synthesis of 51A can promote the expression of alternative splicing SORL1 variants. Quantitative RTPCR is often used to verify the overexpression in the metastatic samples. Nevertheless, the metastasis of NSCLC patients is significantly related to MALAT1 [9]. Forced expression of HOTAIR in epithelial cancer cells induces genomewide Polycomb repression complex 2 (PRC2) to retarget to a more similar pattern of embryonic fibroblasts, leading to gene expression changes, and increase cancer invasion and metastasis. In contrast, the loss of HOTAIR can inhibit cancer invasion, especially in cells with excessive PRC2 activity. These findings suggest that lncRNAs have a positive role in regulating the epigenome of cancer and may be an important target for cancer diagnosis and treatment [10]. Therefore, predicting the potential association between diseases and lncRNAs can not only promote the understanding of molecular mechanisms for human diseases at the level of lncRNAs, but also better identify biomarkers for the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and prevention of human diseases [11, 12] However, it is costly and timeconsuming for traditional biological experiments in discovering potential lncRNAdisease associations [13]. Besides, classical biological experiment methods are usually not made available for the analysis of a large number of candidates [14]. Therefore, it is essential to propose an effective and efficient computational model for predicting lncRNAdisease associations [12, 15].
In the past decades, various computation models based on different mathematical theories have been proposed to address this issue [16, 17]. These methods can be divided into two categories, i.e., networkbased methods and machine learningbased methods. The networkbased methods mainly use biological information related to lncRNAs for the prediction. Chen et al. [11] proposed the Laplacian regularized least squares model (LRLSLDA) to predict the lncRNAdisease association, which is the first computational model used to predict lncRNAdisease association. Zhou et al. [18] proposed RWRHLD as a candidate for the lncRNAdisease association by integrating miRNArelated lncRNAlncRNA crosstalk network, diseasedisease similarity network, and known lncRNAdisease association network. Chen et al. [19] introduced KATZLDA to predict the lncRNAdisease association.
In [20], a hypergeometric distribution model for lncRNAdisease association inference was developed to predict lncRNAdisease association by integrating miRNAdisease association and lncRNAmiRNA interaction. Ping et al. [21] constructed a twopart heterogeneous network obeying the powerlaw distribution based on known lncRNAdisease correlations to predict potential lncRNAdisease association sample pairs. The implementation of this method requires the assumption that lncRNAs related to the same or similar diseases may have similar functions [22]. Chen et al. [23] proposed ILDMSF to identify an association between lncRNAs and diseases by using multisimilarity fusion strategy. This method solves the problem of unsatisfactory prediction results using a single similarity measure or a linear method that fuses different similarities. Yang et al. [9] introduced genetic information to identify lncRNArelated diseases. They constructed a codingnoncoding genedisease bipartite network based on known associations diseases and diseasecausing genes. Lu et al. [24] developed a method named SIMCLDA by using inductive matrix completion to discover the potential lncRNAdisease association. What is common to all of these approaches is the assumption that molecules with similar structures or ligands have similar functions. However, molecules with similar structures or ligands may not have similar functions. Besides, the performance of the matrix fusion method may decrease when the known association information is insufficient. Therefore, these methods do not reveal the inherent logical association between lncRNAs and complex diseases.
For the machine learningbased methods, some classical algorithms are often used to predict the potential association between lncRNAs and diseases. Yu et al. [25] firstly constructed an updated tripartite network by integrating the miRNAdisease interaction network, miRNAlncRNA interaction network, and lncRNAdisease network, and then predicted lncRNAdisease association based on Naïve Bayesian classifier and collaborative filtering model. In [26], InfDisSim was proposed to predict diseaserelated ncRNA based on a damped random walk model. Sun et al. [27] introduced RWRlncD to infer the lncRNAdisease association by implementing a restart random walk method on the lncRNA functional similarity network. Li et al. [28] also proposed a local random walk model (LREWHLDA) to predict the lncRNAdisease association. Yao et al. [29] proposed to predict lncRNAdisease associations based on random forests. In [30], a clustering algorithm was proposed based on unsupervised learning to predict the lncRNAdisease association. Wang et al. [31] established a prediction model called Internal Random Walk with Restart (IIRWR) to predict lncRNArelated diseases. Lan et al. [32] introduced LDAP to identify potential associations between lncRNAs and diseases by using a bagging support vector machine (SVM) classifier. Although these methods have achieved varying degrees of success, they did not comprehensively take into account the global information between lncRNAs and diseases, internal information between lncRNAs, internal information between diseases, and the sparsity of known lncRNAdisease association, which are all thought to be able to contribute to the prediction.
Recently, Xiao et al. [33] proposed BPLLDA to predict lncRNAdisease associations. This method mainly predicted the degree of association between lncRNAs and diseases by calculating the paths connecting them and their lengths. Although this method improved the prediction accuracy, the semantic similarity calculation in this method only simply considered the local information of the semantics. Actually, global semantic information on the disease is also important because the frequency of the disease may affect its contribution. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the features of disease and lncRNA more comprehensively to accurately predict the associations between lncRNAs and diseases.
In this paper, we propose a novel method, called LDNFSGB, for the largescale lncRNAdisease association prediction. Firstly, we construct a comprehensive feature vector to effectively extract the global and local information of diseases and lncRNAs using a disease similarity (DISS) heterogeneous network and a lncRNA similarity (LNCS) heterogeneous network. Specifically, DISS is constructed by combining the disease Gaussian interaction profile kernel similarity (DISGS) and the disease semantic similarity (DISSS) heterogeneous network. And LNCS is constructed by integrating the lncRNA Gaussian interaction profile kernel similarity (LNCGS) and lncRNA function similarity (LNCFS) heterogeneous network. Here, for the calculation of either DISSS or LNCFS, the average derived from two strategies is taken as the final score. In particular, DISSS1 (LNCFS1) is used to consider the local information of disease semantics (lncRNA functions) and DISSS2 (LNCFS2) is for the global information of disease semantics (lncRNA functions). Secondly, an autoencoder is used to reduce the dimensionality of the feature vector to get the optimal feature parameter from the original feature set. Furthermore, considering the distribution characteristics of the data, we employ a gradient boosting algorithm to predict the lncRNAdisease associations. Finally, three validation methods, including the holdout, leaveoneout crossvalidation (LOOCV), and tenfold crossvalidation (10fold CV), are implemented to demonstrate the prediction performance of the proposed LDNFSGB on three publicly available datasets, i.e., LncRNADisease, Lnc2Cancer, and LncRNADisease2.0. The experimental results indicate that the proposed LDNFSGB achieves 0.9761, 0.9447, 0.9933 in terms of AUC values using holdout on the three datasets respectively, which outperforms the stateoftheart methods for predicting candidate disease lncRNAs. Additional case studies on six diseases, including colorectal cancer, osteosarcoma, cervical cancer, glioma, heart failure, and AD, further show that LDNFSGB can successfully predict potential diseaserelated lncRNAs candidates.
Results
To verify the performance of the proposed LDNFSGB, a series of experiments are conducted. (1) In order to construct the best similarity features, we implement a comparative experiment on the LncRNADisease dataset based on different features and compare and analyze the experimental results of LDNFSGB under different feature vectors. (2) To verify the performance of the gradient boosting algorithm, we conduct an comparison experiment on LncRNADisease using eight different classifiers including Gradient Boosting, SVM, Naïve Bayes, Logistic Regression, Random Forest, Rotation Forest, AdaBoost, and Deep Extreme Learning Machine (DELM). (3) We use three validation methods (i.e., holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV) to comprehensively evaluate the performance of the proposed LDNFSGB on three publicly available datasets. (4) To evaluate the overall performance of LDNFSGB, we compare the results of the proposed method with several stateoftheart approaches in the literature.
Validation methods
Holdout
The reserved method is to divide the dataset into a training set and a test set according to a certain ratio, and then use the training set to learn the model. The test set is used for lncRNAdisease association prediction and model performance evaluation. A large number of experiments have demonstrated that the best training results can be obtained by randomly dividing the datasets according to the 8 to 2 ratio [34–37].
Leaveoneout crossvalidation
Although holdout can obtain better test results, the randomness of the training sample and test sample division causes a certain bias in the results. Thus, LOOCV is chosen as another validation method. For the LOOCV, traverse all the samples according to the principle of leaving one sample as the test set and all the remaining samples as the training set. Finally, we take the average of all test results as the final result. In general, LOOCV can obtain relatively stable results because of the large number of runs.
Tenfold crossvalidation
We herein use the 10fold CV to further evaluate the performance of the proposed method. The basic principle of 10fold CV is to divide all data randomly into 10 disjoint subsets. For each round, 9 subsets are used for training and the remaining for testing. After 10 rounds, the average of the 10 results is used as the final evaluation result. Overall, the 10fold CV method saves time to some extent and reduces the deviation caused by the random partition of data.
Performance metric
To evaluate the performance of LDNFSGB, the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves are utilized and the area under ROC (AUC) values are calculated. Also, five other metrics are used for the evaluation, including Accuracy (Acc), Sensitivity (Sen), Specificity (Spe), Precision (Pre), and Matthews Correlation Coefficient (MCC), which are defined as
where TP, FP, TN, FN are the number of true positives, false positives, true negatives, and false negatives in the confusion matrix, respectively.
Parameter settings
In LDNFSGB, different parameters of the autoencoder and gradient boosting algorithm will generate different prediction results. The parameters settings and implementation details of our experiments are presented as following. For the autoencoder, we use the Keras library and set the batch size and epoch to 128 and 100, respectively. For gradient boosting, we set the maximum tree depth d to 3, the number of regression tree q to 1200, the random seed to 0, and the learning rate η to 0.1. All the experiments are implemented using Pycharm2019 on a PC (Intel i57500, 3.4GHz CPU, and 8GB RAM).
Overall performance on the LncRNADisease dataset
Firstly, to verify the performance of our method, three validation methods including holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV are evaluated on the LncRNADisease dataset. Among them, LDNFSGB using holdout obtains the highest result with an AUC of 0.9761. The average values of AUCs obtained by LOOCV and 10fold CV are 0.96 and 0.9586, respectively. The ROC curves of LDNFSGB using three validation methods are shown in Fig. 1. In particular, the closer AUC is to 1, the better the predicted result is. Besides, the closer the ROC curve is to the top, the better the prediction performance is. For three validation methods, LOOCV has the most stable results with the highest computational cost. While holdout achieves a highest accuracy, the results are a little bit unstable because of random data split. By contrast, 10fold CV gets a good balance. Overall, the high results obtained by these three validation methods show that the proposed LDNFSGB is effective for lncRNAdisease association prediction.
Comparison with different features
Most of the existing methods calculate the lncRNA similarity and disease similarity from a local perspective and they do not comprehensively consider the sparseness and globality of the feature matrix. In this section, we construct four tetramerous heterogeneous networks (THN1, THN2, THN3, and THN4), six tripartite heterogeneous networks (TriHN1, TriHN2, TriHN3, TriHN4, TriHN5, and TriHN6), and four duplex heterogeneous networks (DHN1, DHN2, DHN3, and DHN4) on LncRNADisease based on the disease semantic similarity, the lncRNA function similarity, the lncRNA Gaussian profile kernel similarity, the disease Gaussian profile kernel similarity, and the known diseaselncRNA interaction for comparison. Details are listed in Table 1. We construct different feature vectors based on these heterogeneous networks and take them as input features for the prediction.
Comparison results on LncRNADisease are illustrated in Fig. 2. We can find that using the feature vector obtained by FHN can achieve the highest AUC with 0.9761, which is higher than other results. It is verified that the feature vector by integrating the lncRNAdisease interaction, disease semantic similarity, lncRNA functional similarity, Gaussian profile kernel similarity for lncRNAs, and Gaussian profile kernel similarity for diseases performs better than other feature vectors, is effective for the lncRNAdisease association prediction.
Comparison with different classifiers
To evaluate the performance of the gradient boosting, we also compare it with other popular classifiers. To be fair, the same data are used for all classifiers.The ROC curves of these eight classifiers using holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV on the LncRNADisease dataset are summarized in Figs. 3, 4 and 5. The comprehensive indicators by calculating confusion matric, including Acc, Sen, Spe, Pre, and MCC, which are illustrated in Tables 2, 3 and 4.
Although the Spe and Pre values of gradient boosting are slightly lower than those of random forest, the Acc, Sen, MCC, and AUC values are the highest across the holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV. Figs. 3, 4, and 5 also show that the ROC curves of gradient boosting are located at the top of all figures. Therefore, the results verify that gradient boosting has better performance than other classifiers. We herein conclude the reasons as following: (1) The performance of SVM is sensitive to data. The choice of kernel function and the setting of parameters could also affect the final result. (2) The premise of using the Naïve Bayes is to assume that the samples are independently distributed. However, our data may not follow such an assumption. (3) Although DELM can reduce the complexity of the model, the experimental results are unstable due to the randomness of the weight setting in the neural network. (4) It needs to assume that the feature vector and the target are linearly separable when using the Logistic Regression model. (5) The Random Forest and Rotation Forest algorithms are not affected by the nonlinear relationship of the data and can get relatively good results. However, the selection of feature attributes of the constructed tree is random, and it will affect the prediction result when there is noise in the sample data. (6) AdaBoost and Gradient Boosting are special ensemble learning methods. In each iteration, the algorithm will update the sample weights according to the predicted effect of the trained learner and use it for a new round of learning. Different from AdaBoost, Gradient Boosting uses a spatial gradient descent algorithm to update the weights and finally achieves better results. Overall, our experiments show that Gradient Boosting has the best performance for lncRNAdisease association prediction compared with other classifiers.
Comparison with other stateofthearts
We compare LDNFSGB with the following computational models: (1) BPLLDA [33], which is a networkbased method based on simple paths with limited lengths in a heterogeneous network. (2) IIRWR [31], which is a random walk with restart architecture with disease clique using an internal tendency. (3) LDASR [38], which is an integrated machine learning method using the rotation forest. (4) SKFLDA [39], which introduces the kernel fusion method with different types of similarities for lncRNAs and diseases. (5) ILNCSIM [40], which develops an improved lncRNA functional similarity calculation model based on the assumption that lncRNAs with similar biological functions tend to be involved in similar diseases. (6) Ping et al.’s Method [21], which constructs a bipartite network to predict potential lncRNAdisease interactions only based on the known lncRNAdisease association. (7) Yuan et al.’s Method [30], which is a cluster correlation based method for lncRNAdisease association prediction.
The comparison with other popular methods on LncRNADisease is shown in Fig. 6, in which, we can find that our method has the highest prediction result with an AUC of 0.9761, which improves by 2.59%10.49%. The reasons for improvement can be attributed to two aspects. On the one hand, we comprehensively consider all the features of lncRNAs and diseases for a better representation. On the other hand, we propose a highperformance prediction model using autoencoder and gradient boosting, which are good at feature representation and integrating multiple weak learners, respectively. Comparison results have shown that LDNFSGB achieves the best performance and is of great significance for the prediction of potential lncRNAdisease associations.
Moreover, to detect the significant differences between our proposed model and other models, a ttest is used to verify the performance of LDNFSGB. Here, we find the distribution of F1score after repeating the process twenty times. The pvalue of the ttest between any other models vs. our method is shown in Table 5. The results demonstrate that the performance of LDNFSGB is significantly better than others in terms of the F1score (pvalue < 0.05).
Three verification methods (i.e., holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV) are also used on Lnc2Cancer and LncRNADisease2.0 for evaluating the performance of the proposed model. The ROC curves are shown in Fig. 7. Among them, LDNFSGB using holdout obtains the highest result with an AUC of 0.9447 and the average values of AUCs obtained by LOOCV and 10fold CV are 0.9302 and 0.9326 on Lnc2Cancer, respectively. Furthermore, we compare the performance of our model with that of the stateoftheart methods [21, 30, 40] on Lnc2Cancer as well. The results in Table 6 show that LDNFSGB improves the AUC by 2.09%10.4%, which indicates that our model dramatically outperforms the competing methods. For the LncRNADisease2.0 dataset, we find that LDNFSGB achieves amazing AUC results, which are 0.9933, 0.9926, and 0.9906 using holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV respectively. Perhaps, this is mainly because LncRNADisease2.0, a larger scale dataset compared with LncRNADisease and Lnc2Cancer, has more lncRNAdisease associated pairs, and therefore, more useful information can be used for the prediction.
Cases studies
In this section, colorectal cancer, osteosarcoma, cervical cancer, and glioma are selected as cancer case studies to verify the performance of LDNFSGB in practical application. In order to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the experiment, we choose the LncRNADisease database (v2017) for model training and prediction. The CRlncRNA [41] and NCBI [42] are selected as the sources of verification results.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancerrelated deaths worldwide, with over one million new cases in Europe and the US every year [43]. It is the second most common cancer affecting women, after breast cancer, and the third most common in men, after prostate and lung cancers [25]. In this case study, the main steps are as follows: (1) After removing the samples related to colorectal cancer from the 1765 positive samples, the rest are used as positive examples, and the negative samples with the same number of positive samples are randomly selected. (2) 881 sample pairs of proven lncRNAcolorectal cancer are selected as test samples. (3) Input the training samples into LDNFSGB, and each sample outputs a probability value accordingly. (4) Sort all the results in descending order, and finally predict the lncRNA most relevant to colorectal cancer. Finally, the top 10 prediction results are verified based on existing databases and literature, as shown in Table 7. For example, overexpression of H19 decreases overall survival and increases the migration of colon cancer cells [45]. The expression of genes involved in epithelialmesenchymal transformation is regulated by changes in SPRY4IT1 expression. SPRY4IT1 negatively regulates the expression of mir1013p in colorectal cancer cells. The results indicate that mir1013p binding sites may exist in SPRY4IT1 transcripts. Therefore, SPRY4IT1 knockout may be a reasonable treatment strategy for colorectal cancer [46].
Osteosarcoma is a highly invasive common primary bone malignant tumor with an annual incidence of approximately (13) per 1,000 worldwide [12]. All experimental steps are the same as that on colorectal cancer. A total of 83 samples are related to osteosarcoma, so the number of positive samples is 1628. Similarly, 881 out of 1628 test samples are randomly selected. The validated top 10 lncRNAs are illustrated in Table 8. For example, MALAT1 increases stem celllike properties by upregulating RET in sponge mir1295p, thus activating the PI3KAkt signaling pathway and providing potential therapeutic targets for osteosarcoma treatment [48]. CCAT1 is upregulated in osteosarcoma tissues and cells and participates in the proliferation and migration of osteosarcoma by regulating mir148a/phosphatidylinositol 3kinase interaction protein 1 (pik3ip1) signal pathway [49].
Cervical cancer is currently one of the serious and high mortality cancers in the world. 200,000 of the approximately 500,000 newly diagnosed cases worldwide die from cervical cancer every year [50]. Without early diagnosis, cervical cancer develops into invasive cancer in many patients, which leads to a low survival rate. The common treatment of advanced cervical cancer is radiotherapy and nuclear chemotherapy. However, these methods are not effective and can lead to serious negative effects. To our best knowledge, lncRNA is a molecular regulatory factor in cancer, and it can provide a therapeutic target. Therefore, lncRNA research is helpful to improve the survival rate of cervical cancer patients [50]. As shown in Table 9, we predict the ten lncRNAs most related to the certificate cancer using the proposed LDNFSGB. Specifically, TUG1 can reverse the inhibitory effect of mir1385p on cervical cancer cells. The upregulation of TUG1 expression is closely related to the late clinical features and poor overall survival rate [51]. Besides, the overexpression of BCAR4 may be an independent prognostic factor of cervical cancer, and it can promote the proliferation and movement of cervical cancer cells [52].
Glioma is the most common and aggressive malignant tumor of the central nervous system [54]. Although various treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are available, the overall survival rate for most glioma patients remains low [55]. In particular, in the case of glioblastoma, glioma patients survive only about 14 months [56]. Increased or decreased lncRNA expression can lead to tumor inhibition or promoter action. The study of gliomarelated lncRNAs can provide a new direction for the diagnosis and treatment of glioma. Hence, we apply our method to predict possible lncRNAs associated with glioma. As illustrated in Table 10, nine of the top 10 predictions are proven to be related to glioma. The results indicate that overexpression of HOTTIP inhibits the growth of glioma cell lines (u87mg, u118mg, U251, and A172), so high levels of HOTTIP reduce glioma cell growth [57]. H19 is specifically upregulated in glioma cell lines and promotes glioma cell growth by targeting mir140. Besides, H19induced glioma cell growth requires mir140dependent P53 apoptosisstimulating protein inhibitors (iASPP). Therefore, H19 may modulate tumor growth through MIP140dependent iASPP [58].
The visualization results of the case studies are shown in Fig. 8. If the association between lncRNA and disease is correctly predicted, it will provide a new perspective on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. In this section, we analyze the top ten lncRNAs related to the disease and obtain 70%, 80%, 90%, and 90% accuracy, respectively. Due to the small number of samples, the current results are better than those of most existing literature. According to the above description, we can see that LDNFSGB has achieved positive and satisfactory performance in predicting potential lncRNArelated diseases.
To further verify the performance of our model for the prediction of lncRNAdisease association, heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease are selected as noncancer case studies. Heart failure, a lifethreatening condition, has been the focus of extensive research due to its ischemic, hypertensive, infectious, or hereditary nature [59]. However, evidence suggests that lncRNA has made significant advances in the understanding of gene recombination and the regulatory role of heart growth and development during heart failure [60]. It may provide an exciting opportunity for the effective treatment of heart failure. AD is a common neurodegenerative disease. An estimated five million new cases of AD are diagnosed globally each year [61]. Therefore, it is of special significance to study the regulation mechanism of lncRNA in the process of AD. With the same experimental steps as the previous four cancerrelated diseases, we predict the top ten lncRNAs related to heart failure and AD, respectively. More details are presented in Table 11. Evidence shows that six of the top ten lncRNAs associated with heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease are confirmed.
Although LDNFSGB achieves satisfactory and reliable prediction performance in the prediction of potential lncRNAdisease associations, some new interesting related lncRNAs, such as DLEU1, 91H, TP73AS1 are also undiscovered. The molecular mechanism of these related lncRNAs is still unveiled, but a new perspective is provided to validate by biological experiments for researchers.
Discussion
Many studies have shown that machine learningbased approaches play an increasing role in lncRNAdisease association prediction, which can greatly help researchers understand complex human diseases at the biomolecular level and further provide new perspectives for diagnosis and targeted treatment. In this paper, we propose a novel method to predict potential associations between lncRNAs and diseases by using network feature similarity and gradient boosting. Firstly, a feature vector is constructed by assembling the DISS and LNCS. Especially, DISS is constructed by combining GISDS and DISSS. We use two methods to calculate DISSS, where DISSS1 considers local information on disease semantics and DISSS2 reflects global information on disease semantics. LNCS is constructed by integrating LNCGS and LNCFS. Similarly, LNCFS is also obtained using two methods to consider both the local and global information of lncRNA functions. Besides, the introduction of the Gaussian interaction profile kernel takes into account the sparsity of the lncRNAdisease interactions. Secondly, an autoencoder is used to reduce the dimensionality of the feature vector to get the optimal feature parameter from the original feature set. Thirdly, we propose to use the gradient boosting on the optical feature parameters to obtain the lncRNAdisease prediction results. In particular, the integration of the autoencoder and gradient boosting effectively reduces the complexity and training time of LDNFSGB. Finally, we evaluate our method on the LncRNADisease database (v2017) from different perspectives, e.g., different features and different classifiers using holdout, LOOCV, and 10fold CV, respectively. Moreover, another two datasets, i.e, Lnc2Cancer and LncRNADisease2.0 are further used to verify the performance of LDNFSGB. We also compare LDNFSGB with several stateoftheart methods. The results have demonstrated that LDNFSGB dramatically outperforms other competing methods in terms of best AUC values. In addition, case studies have verified the effectiveness of LDNFSGB in predicting the potential associations between lncRNAs and diseases.
Although the proposed model overcomes some existing problems, it still has some limitations and there are some questions remain to be explored. For example, we only considered the functional information of lncRNA in feature extraction. However, many other characteristics of lncRNA are also very helpful for the prediction of lncRNAdisease association, such as lncRNA sequence, structure, location information, etc. In this study, we used a supervised approach to predict potential lncRNAs associated with diseases. We summarize unlabelled samples as negative samples, but unlabelled lncRNAdisease association pairs may be relevant. Therefore, unsupervised learning is expected to be a new way to further improve the performance by incorporating more useful information.
Conclusion
In this study, we propose a novel and effective method for predicting potential lncRNAdisease associations using network feature similarity and gradient boosting. We first construct a comprehensive feature vector to extract the global and local information of lncRNAs and diseases. Then, an autoencoder is employed to reduce the dimensionality of the feature vector to obtain the optimal feature parameter from the original feature set. Furthermore, we utilize the gradient boosting algorithm to obtain the lncRNAdisease association prediction. Finally, we evaluate the proposed method on three publicly available datasets. Moreover, we also compare our method with several stateoftheart approaches. The results and case studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of our method in predicting lncRNAdisease associations.
Methods
Datasets
The first dataset used in this paper is LncRNADisease (v2017) [71], and the known lncRNAdisease association data was downloaded from the LncRNADisease database. After eliminating duplicate descriptions of lncRNAdisease associations and invalid samples, we obtain 1765 lncRNAdisease related sample pairs and 287,203 lncRNAdisease uncorrelated sample pairs, including 881 lncRNAs and 328 diseases. We summarize these 1765 lncRNAdisease association candidates as positive samples. To eliminate the imbalance problem of samples, we randomly select 1765 out of 287,203 unassociated candidates as the final negative samples.
To comprehensively evaluate the performance of LDNFSGB, another two datasets, i.e., Lnc2Cancer [72] and LncRNADisease2.0 [73] are used. Lnc2Cancer, a manually managed dataset, provides experimentally supported associations between lncRNAs and cancers by consulting more than 6,500 published papers. A dataset consisted of 725 known lncRNAdisease associations can be obtained using the same preprocessing as the LncRNADisease dataset, which includes 355 lncRNAs and 76 diseases. LncRNADisease2.0 is an updated version of the LncRNADisease dataset, which adds a lot of new lncRNA and disease associations. Similarly, we get 7981 known lncRNAdisease associations including 6076 lncRNAs and 452 diseases.
The disease semantic similarity data were retrieved from the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH). The MeSH, which is a definitive subject vocabulary compiled by the National Library of Medicine, provides hierarchical organizational terms for indexing and classifying various diseases. It is the source for constructing directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) [74].
Construction of the lncRNAdisease interaction matrix
The known lncRNAdisease interaction is the basis for calculating the similarity of all features and is also the label of the model. After quantifying the lncRNAdisease related sample pairs, an adjacency matrix is constructed based on the known lncRNAdisease interaction and called LNCDIS. The matrix \(LNCDIS=[M_{ij}^{LNCDIS}]\in R^{N_{d} \times N_{l}}\) represents the association pairs between N_{l} lncRNAs and N_{d} diseases, where \(M_{ij}^{LNCDIS}\) is 1 if disease d_{i} is associated with lncRNA l_{j}. Otherwise, \(M_{ij}^{LNCDIS}\) is 0.
Similarity measures
Construction of the disease semantic similarity matrix
There are currently two methods for calculating the semantic similarity of diseases, which are named DISSS1 and DISSS2, respectively. DISSS1, which only takes into account the local information on disease semantics, thinks the more related to the semantics of diseases, the greater the contribution of diseases. However, DISSS2 believes that the higher the frequency of diseases, the greater the contribution of diseases [74], and it takes into account global information on disease semantics. Taking both ideas of DISSS1 and DISSS2 into consideration, we herein employ two similarity calculation methods to obtain the disease semantic similarity matrix. The calculation of DISSS1 is mainly as follows.
(1) We download the MeSH descriptions of diseases from the National Medical Library of Medicine. These descriptions provide detailed semantic information for each disease.
(2) Based on the obtained MeSH information, we construct a direct graph for each disease. The DAG of the glioma is shown in Fig. 9.
(3) DAGs are used to calculate the disease semantic similarity. A disease d can be described as DAG(d)=(d,D(d)), where D(d) is the nodeset of d and all of its ancestor nodes. For any disease k∈D(d) in DAG, its semantic contribution to d is defined as [75]
where δ represents the semantic contribution decay factor for the edge among disease nodes. It is specified by 0<δ<1 and is generally set as 0.5.
(4) We calculate the final contribution of disease d as follows:
(5) Then, the association between the two diseases can be calculated by
For DISSS2, the pipeline is as follows:
(1) The semantic contribution to disease d is defined as
(2) The final semantic value of disease d can be calculated by
(3) Therefore, the association between the two diseases can be calculated by
Finally, we can obtain disease semantic similarity matrices \(DISSS1=[M_{ij}^{DISSS1}]\in R^{N_{d} \times N_{d}}\) and \(DISSS2=[M_{ij}^{DISSS2}] \in R^{N_{d}\times N_{d}}\) respectively, where both DISSS1_{ij} and DISSS2_{ij} denote the similarity values between D(i) and D(j). N_{d} is the number of diseases.
Construction of the lncRNA function similarity matrix
After obtaining the feature vector of semantic similarity of diseases, we adopt a similarity method proposed by Chen et al.[20] to calculate the functional similarity of lncRNAs. Supposing lncRNA p is related with a disease set D_{p}={d_{k}1≤k≤m} and lncRNA q is associated with a disease set D_{q}={d_{l}1≤l≤n}. Especially, m is the total number of diseases related to lncRNA p and n is the total number of diseases related to lncRNA q. The degree of association between lncRNA p and disease D_{q} is
The functional similarity between p and q is calculated as
We can obtain the lncRNA function similarity matrix \(LNCFS1=[M_{ij}^{LNCFS1}] \in R^{N_{l} \times N_{l}}\). Similarity, we can also get \(LNCFS2=[M_{ij}^{LNCFS2}] \in R^{N_{l} \times N_{l}}\), where N_{l} denotes the number of lncRNAs. Obviously, LNCFS1 and LNCFS2 are symmetric matrices.
LDNFSGB
Methods overview
In this paper, we propose LDNFSGB to predict lncRNArelated diseases. The main workflow of LDNFSGB is illustrated in Fig. 10a. We firstly construct a comprehensive feature vector to effectively extract the global and local information of diseases and lncRNAs by combining DISS and LNCS. As shown in Fig. 10b, the average of DISSS1 and DISSS2 is taken for the disease semantic similarity network. Then, we get DISS by combining DISSS and DISGC. As shown in Fig. 10c, the average of LNCFS1 and LNCFS2 is taken for the lncRNA function similarity network. Similarly, the LNCS is obtained by combining LNCFS and LNCGS as well. Secondly, we utilize an autoencoder to reduce the dimensionality of the feature vector to get the optimal feature parameter from the origin feature set (Fig. 10d). Finally, more discriminative feature vectors are put into the gradient boosting for training, testing, and prediction based on the regression tree (Fig. 10e). Besides, Fig. 10f shows the association between known lncRNAs and diseases. It is the basis for all feature calculations and the label of the model.
Construction of the Gaussian interaction profile kernel similarity matrix for lncRNAs and diseases
To eliminate the effects caused by missing MeSH information and lots of zero values in the lncRNAdisease adjacency matrix, the Radial Basis Function (RBF) Gaussian kernel function is utilized. Given diseases D(i) and D(j), the Gaussian interaction profile kernel similarity between them can be represented as
where μ_{d} is a weight used to control the bandwidth of the kernel, which can be calculated by
where N_{d} represents the number of diseases and the best value of \(\mu _{d}^{\prime }\) is 0.5. Obviously, the third disease semantic similarity matrix \(DISGS=[M_{ij}^{DISGS}]\in R^{N_{d} \times N_{d}}\) is symmetric. Similarly, we can obtain the third lncRNA function similarity matrix \(LNCGS=[M_{ij}^{LNCGS}]\in R^{N_{l} \times N_{l}}\), where N_{l} is the number of lncRNAs.
Construction of feature vector
The integration is performed to obtain the final disease semantic similarity feature vector based on the DISSS1, DISSS2, and DISGS.
where
Similarly, we can obtain the lncRNA functional similarity feature vector based on the LNCFS1, LNCFS2, and LNCGS, which is called as LNCS. Remarkably, all similarity matrices are symmetric.
Autoencoder
After feature extraction, dimensionality reduction is necessary to increase the performance and efficiency of classifiers. Here, the autoencoder is chosen to obtain the discriminative feature subsets. In general, autoencoder is mainly composed of an encoder and a decoder. The encoder is used to reduce the dimensionality of the input data and the decoder contributes to restoring initial input data. The vital steps are presented as follows:
(1) Assuming the activation functions of the encoder and decoder are defined as h(x) and g(k) respectively, and both of them can be represented using a Sigmoid function by
where w and β are the weights of the encoder and decoder, b and γ are the thresholds of the encoder and decoder, respectively.
(2) We employ a loss function to represent the difference between the original input and the prediction, which is defined as
where the Loss function is based on logistic regression, g(f(x_{i})) represents the feature value after encoding and decoding. x_{i} represents the original input feature value.
Finally, the optimal and dimensionalityreduced feature vector X is obtained based on Eq. (20) through multiple iterations.
Gradient boosting
In this paper, we employ a gradient boosting algorithm as the classifier for the prediction of lncRNAdisease associations. Gradient boosting is an ensemble model that uses a regression tree as a basic learner [76]. In this model, the main parameters are the maximum tree depth d, the number of regression tree q, and the learning rate η.
Supposing \(X={[{X_{1}},{X_{2}},{X_{3}},\ldots,{X_{{N_{d}}}}]^{T}}\phantom {\dot {i}\!}\) is the optimal and dimensionalityreduced feature vector and \(Y = [{y_{1}},{y_{2}},{y_{3}},\ldots,{y_{{N_{d}}}}]\phantom {\dot {i}\!}\) is the label of sample pairs. The predicted value of each weak learner \({\hat {y}}_{i}\) can be obtained by
where F_{m}(X_{i}) is a function of the weak learner.
Each learner is obtained by fitting the gradient descent algorithm based on the error of the previous function as
where
The goal of h_{m}(X_{i}) is to find the direction of the spatial gradient descent of f_{m−1}(X_{i}), so that the error propagates faster. ρ_{m} is defined as
where ρ represents the search step size when finding the direction of the fastest gradient descent based on the line search method. L(y_{i},F_{m−1}(x)+ρ_{m}h_{m}(x)) is the mean square error loss function. w^{∗} is the weight of F_{m−1}(X_{i}), which is define as
Gradient boosting is an ensemble learning algorithm. The specialty of this algorithm is that it directly updates the parameters based on the model functions. Therefore, it can extend the additivity of parameters to function space. For example, in the mth iteration of the model, a new learner f_{m} is firstly obtained using the previous m1 base learners (f_{0}  f_{m−1}), and then ρ_{m} and w^{∗} can be updated continuously in the direction of gradient descent. The procedure of gradient boosting is summarized in Algorithm 1.
Availability of data and materials
The code of LDNFSGB and data processing are available at https://github.com/MLMIP/LDNFSGB.
Abbreviations
 ncRNAs:

Noncoding RNAs
 lncRNAs:

Long noncoding RNAs
 LOOCV:

Leaveoneout crossvalidation
 ROC:

Receiver operating characteristic
 AUC:

Area under ROC
 FPR:

False positive rates
 TPR:

True positive rates
 Acc:

Accuracy
 Sen:

Sensitivity
 Spe:

Specificity
 Pre:

Precision
 MCC:

Matthews correlation coefficient
 MeSH:

Medical subject heading
 DAGs:

Directed acyclic graphs.
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Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments, which greatly helped to improve the quality of this paper.
Funding
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grants 61802328, 61972333 and 61771415, the Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province of China under Grant 2019JJ50606, and the Research Foundation of Education Department of Hunan Province of China under Grant 19B561. Funding sources did not play a role in any part of the study.
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YZ and XG designed this study. YZ and FY conceived and implemented the model, performed and analysed the experiments and wrote the paper. DX and XG revised the paper. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.
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Zhang, Y., Ye, F., Xiong, D. et al. LDNFSGB: prediction of long noncoding rna and disease association using network feature similarity and gradient boosting. BMC Bioinformatics 21, 377 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12859020037210
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Keywords
 lncRNAdisease association
 Prediction
 Network feature similarity
 Gradient boosting