Automated RNA tertiary structure prediction from secondary structure and low-resolution restraints

J Comput Chem. 2011 Jul 30;32(10):2232-44. doi: 10.1002/jcc.21806. Epub 2011 Apr 21.


A novel protocol for all-atom RNA tertiary structure prediction is presented that uses restrained molecular mechanics and simulated annealing. The restraints are from secondary structure, covariation analysis, coaxial stacking predictions for helices in junctions, and, when available, cross-linking data. Results are demonstrated on the Alu domain of the mammalian signal recognition particle RNA, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae phenylalanine tRNA, the hammerhead ribozyme, the hepatitis C virus internal ribosomal entry site, and the P4-P6 domain of the Tetrahymena thermophila group I intron. The predicted structure is selected from a pool of decoy structures with a score that maximizes radius of gyration and base-base contacts, which was empirically found to select higher quality decoys. This simple ab initio approach is sufficient to make good predictions of the structure of RNAs compared to current crystal structures using both root mean square deviation and the accuracy of base-base contacts.

Keywords: RNA structure prediction; RNA tertiary structure; simulated annealing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Introns
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA, Catalytic / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe / chemistry
  • Signal Recognition Particle / chemistry


  • RNA, Catalytic
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe
  • Signal Recognition Particle
  • hammerhead ribozyme
  • RNA