RNA molecules play fundamental roles in cellular processes. Their function and interactions with other biomolecules are dependent on the ability to form complex three-dimensional (3D) structures. However, experimental determination of RNA 3D structures is laborious and challenging, and therefore, the majority of known RNAs remain structurally uncharacterized. Here, we present SimRNA: a new method for computational RNA 3D structure prediction, which uses a coarse-grained representation, relies on the Monte Carlo method for sampling the conformational space, and employs a statistical potential to approximate the energy and identify conformations that correspond to biologically relevant structures. SimRNA can fold RNA molecules using only sequence information, and, on established test sequences, it recapitulates secondary structure with high accuracy, including correct prediction of pseudoknots. For modeling of complex 3D structures, it can use additional restraints, derived from experimental or computational analyses, including information about secondary structure and/or long-range contacts. SimRNA also can be used to analyze conformational landscapes and identify potential alternative structures.
© The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.