Nucleic acid visualization with UCSF Chimera

Nucleic Acids Res. 2006 Feb 14;34(4):e29. doi: 10.1093/nar/gnj031.


With the increase in the number of large, 3D, high-resolution nucleic acid structures, particularly of the 30S and 50S ribosomal subunits and the intact bacterial ribosome, advancements in the visualization of nucleic acid structural features are essential. Large molecular structures are complicated and detailed, and one goal of visualization software is to allow the user to simplify the display of some features and accent others. We describe an extension to the UCSF Chimera molecular visualization system for the purpose of displaying and highlighting nucleic acid characteristics, including a new representation of sugar pucker, several options for abstraction of base geometries that emphasize stacking and base pairing, and an adaptation of the ribbon backbone to accommodate the nucleic acid backbone. Molecules are displayed and manipulated interactively, allowing the user to change the representations as desired for small molecules, proteins and nucleic acids. This software is available as part of the UCSF Chimera molecular visualization system and thus is integrated with a suite of existing tools for molecular graphics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Base Pairing
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry
  • Computer Graphics*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • Internet
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • RNA / chemistry
  • Software*


  • Carbohydrates
  • RNA
  • DNA