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Recommender systems suggest a few items from many possible choices to the users by understanding their past behaviors. In these systems, the user behaviors are influenced by the hidden interests of the users. Learning to leverage the information about user interests is often critical for making better recommendations. However, existing collaborative-filtering-based recommender systems are usually focused on exploiting the information about the user's interaction with the systems; the information about latent user interests is largely underexplored. To that end, inspired by the topic models, in this paper, we propose a novel collaborative-filtering-based recommender system by user interest expansion via personalized ranking, named iExpand. The goal is to build an item-oriented model-based collaborative-filtering framework. The iExpand method introduces a three-layer, user-interests-item, representation scheme, which leads to more accurate ranking recommendation results with less computation cost and helps the understanding of the interactions among users, items, and user interests. Moreover, iExpand strategically deals with many issues that exist in traditional collaborative-filtering approaches, such as the overspecialization problem and the cold-start problem. Finally, we evaluate iExpand on three benchmark data sets, and experimental results show that iExpand can lead to better ranking performance than state-of-the-art methods with a significant margin.