Annotating functional RNAs in genomes using Infernal

Methods Mol Biol. 2014:1097:163-97. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-709-9_9.


Many different types of functional non-coding RNAs participate in a wide range of important cellular functions but the large majority of these RNAs are not routinely annotated in published genomes. Several programs have been developed for identifying RNAs, including specific tools tailored to a particular RNA family as well as more general ones designed to work for any family. Many of these tools utilize covariance models (CMs), statistical models of the conserved sequence, and structure of an RNA family. In this chapter, as an illustrative example, the Infernal software package and CMs from the Rfam database are used to identify RNAs in the genome of the archaeon Methanobrevibacter ruminantium, uncovering some additional RNAs not present in the genome's initial annotation. Analysis of the results and comparison with family-specific methods demonstrate some important strengths and weaknesses of this general approach.

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation / methods*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Software*


  • RNA