The rapid determination of nucleic acid sequences is increasing the number of sequences that are available. Inherent in a template or seed alignment is the culmination of structural and functional constraints that are selecting those mutations that are viable during the evolution of the RNA. While we might not understand these structural and functional, template-based alignment programs utilize the patterns of sequence conservation to encapsulate the characteristics of viable RNA sequences that are aligned properly. We have developed a program that utilizes the different dimensions of information in rCAD, a large RNA informatics resource, to establish a profile for each position in an alignment. The most significant include sequence identity and column composition in different phylogenetic taxa. We have compared our methods with a maximum of eight alternative alignment methods on different sets of 16S and 23S rRNA sequences with sequence percent identities ranging from 50% to 100%. The results showed that CRWAlign outperformed the other alignment methods in both speed and accuracy. A web-based alignment server is available at http://www.rna.ccbb.utexas.edu/SAE/2F/CRWAlign.
Keywords: RNA sequence alignment; comparative analysis; phylogenetic-based alignment; template-based alignment.