The important role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the formation, development, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases has attracted much attention among researchers recently. In this study, we present an unsupervised deep learning model of the variational autoencoder for MiRNA–disease association prediction (VAEMDA). Through combining the integrated miRNA similarity and the integrated disease similarity with known miRNA–disease associations, respectively, we constructed two spliced matrices. These matrices were applied to train the variational autoencoder (VAE), respectively. The final predicted association scores between miRNAs and diseases were obtained by integrating the scores from the two trained VAE models. Unlike previous models, VAEMDA can avoid noise introduced by the random selection of negative samples and reveal associations between miRNAs and diseases from the perspective of data distribution. Compared with previous methods, VAEMDA obtained higher area under the receiver operating characteristics curves (AUCs) of 0.9118, 0.8652, and 0.9091 ± 0.0065 in global leave-one-out cross validation (LOOCV), local LOOCV, and five-fold cross validation, respectively. Further, the AUCs of VAEMDA were 0.8250 and 0.8237 in global leave-one-disease-out cross validation (LODOCV), and local LODOCV, respectively. In three different types of case studies on three important diseases, the results showed that most of the top 50 potentially associated miRNAs were verified by databases and the literature.
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