Motivation: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a severe neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system that may be caused by perturbation of regulatory pathways rather than the dysfunction of a single gene. However, the pathology of AD has yet to be fully elucidated.
Results: In this study, we systematically analyzed AD-related mRNA and miRNA expression profiles as well as curated transcription factor (TF) and miRNA regulation to identify active TF and miRNA regulatory pathways in AD. By mapping differentially expressed genes and miRNAs to the curated TF and miRNA regulatory network as active seed nodes, we obtained a potential active subnetwork in AD. Next, by using the breadth-first-search technique, potential active regulatory pathways, which are the regulatory cascade of TFs, miRNAs and their target genes, were identified. Finally, based on the known AD-related genes and miRNAs, the hypergeometric test was used to identify active pathways in AD. As a result, nine pathways were found to be significantly activated in AD. A comprehensive literature review revealed that eight out of nine genes and miRNAs in these active pathways were associated with AD. In addition, we inferred that the pathway hsa-miR-146a→STAT1→MYC, which is the source of all nine significantly active pathways, may play an important role in AD progression, which should be further validated by biological experiments. Thus, this study provides an effective approach to finding active TF and miRNA regulatory pathways in AD and can be easily applied to other complex diseases.