MiMeNet: Exploring microbiome-metabolome relationships using neural networks

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 May 17;17(5):e1009021. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009021. eCollection 2021 May.


The advance in microbiome and metabolome studies has generated rich omics data revealing the involvement of the microbial community in host disease pathogenesis through interactions with their host at a metabolic level. However, the computational tools to uncover these relationships are just emerging. Here, we present MiMeNet, a neural network framework for modeling microbe-metabolite relationships. Using ten iterations of 10-fold cross-validation on three paired microbiome-metabolome datasets, we show that MiMeNet more accurately predicts metabolite abundances (mean Spearman correlation coefficients increase from 0.108 to 0.309, 0.276 to 0.457, and -0.272 to 0.264) and identifies more well-predicted metabolites (increase in the number of well-predicted metabolites from 198 to 366, 104 to 143, and 4 to 29) compared to state-of-art linear models for individual metabolite predictions. Additionally, we demonstrate that MiMeNet can group microbes and metabolites with similar interaction patterns and functions to illuminate the underlying structure of the microbe-metabolite interaction network, which could potentially shed light on uncharacterized metabolites through "Guilt by Association". Our results demonstrated that MiMeNet is a powerful tool to provide insights into the causes of metabolic dysregulation in disease, facilitating future hypothesis generation at the interface of the microbiome and metabolomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology
  • Metabolome*
  • Microbiota*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*