Tip of the Week: CircuitsDB for TF/miRNA/gene Regulation Networks

In this week’s tip I’d like to introduce you to CircuitsDB, which describes itself as:

“…a database where transcriptional and post-transcriptional (miRNA mediated) network information is fused together in order to propose and recognize non trivial regulatory combinations. “

I found out about the database from the BioMed Central article “CircuitsDB: a database of mixed microRNA/transcription factor feed-forward regulatory circuits in human and mouse“, which I cite below. I had already been thinking about miRNAs because I am slated to update our miRBase tutorial in the near future and have been reading/catching up on the latest in the field. The CircuitsDB paper by Olivier Friard et al does a really nice job of quickly and clearly laying out the background of the project – how transcription factors have long been studied for their transcriptional regulation of protein-coding genes involved in any manor of pathways, including those of disease. It goes on to describe that the study of microRNAs, or miRNAs, is a newer field studying the post-translational regulatory effects of miRNAs on protein-coding genes and their functions. Current efforts are moving to integrate the two areas of research to create more complete, and admittedly more complex, regulatory views of protein-coding genes and the affects on disease and other pathways.

The developers of CircuitsDB also very clearly describe how they have mined, analyzed and connected data from several top databases – many of which we have tutorials on, such as OMIM, miRBase, Ensembl and others – in order to create feed-forward regulatory loops, or FFLs, of TFs, affected miRNAs and ultimately affected protein-encoding genes. The image at the right is from their original paper: “Genome-wide survey of microRNA–transcription factor feed-forward regulatory circuits in human” (cited below), which reported the development of the computational framework for the mixed miRNA/TF Feed-Forward regulatory circuits that are freely available through the  CircuitsDB web interface. This original paper is available for free, with registration to RSC Publishing, and provides a detailed description of their original development, as well as access to several supplemental files.

Essentially networks linking transcription factors and affected genes, miRNAs and affected genes, and transcription factors and miRNAs were painstakingly connected through an ab-initio oligo analysis. Support was then gained for the connections by analyzing enriched GO terms, disease connections, and previously-known connections found in other specialized resources. The CircuitsDB interface offers multiple tools. The main tool (FFL) is what I show in this tip & is the tool that searches for the networks diagrammed above. The MYC FFL is an impressive “curated database of miRNA mediated Feed Forward Loops involving MYC as Master Regulator”, and includes information on the direction of regulation, loop participants, evidence levels and more. The Transcriptional network tool allows a user to search with either a miRNA & find its regulating TF, or search with a TF & find regulated genes or miRNAs. The Post-transcriptional network tool is similar, but allows searches for a miRNA or gene to find regulated genes or regulating miRNA, respectively. So check out the tip & then check out CircuitsDB – enjoy!

Friard, O., Re, A., Taverna, D., De Bortoli, M., & Corá, D. (2010). CircuitsDB: a database of mixed microRNA/transcription factor feed-forward regulatory circuits in human and mouse BMC Bioinformatics, 11 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-11-435

Re, A., Corá, D., Taverna, D., & Caselle, M. (2009). Genome-wide survey of microRNA–transcription factor feed-forward regulatory circuits in human Molecular BioSystems, 5 (8) DOI: 10.1039/B900177H

4 thoughts on “Tip of the Week: CircuitsDB for TF/miRNA/gene Regulation Networks

  1. Moreno

    One of the authors of the older paper is my tutor in my PhD course! In fact I am trying to reproduce exactly the same thing in plant species. I think it’s a smart way to integrate two different kinds of regulations, and I hope to obtain the same good results as those in human and mice.

  2. Jennifer Post author

    Hi Moreno,

    Thanks for letting us know about your project. It sounds like a very challenging AND worthwhile effort – we wish you all the luck with it! And when (not if) you succeed and can make your results available publicly, please let us know – then I can do a tip featuring your database. :)

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