Physics-based all-atom modeling of RNA energetics and structure

Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2017 Sep;8(5):10.1002/wrna.1422. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1422.


The database of RNA sequences is exploding, but knowledge of energetics, structures, and dynamics lags behind. All-atom computational methods, such as molecular dynamics, hold promise for closing this gap. New algorithms and faster computers have accelerated progress in improving the reliability and accuracy of predictions. Currently, the methods can facilitate refinement of experimentally determined nuclear magnetic resonance and x-ray structures, but are 'unreliable' for predictions based only on sequence. Much remains to be discovered, however, about the many molecular interactions driving RNA folding and the best way to approximate them quantitatively. The large number of parameters required means that a wide variety of experimental results will be required to benchmark force fields and different approaches. As computational methods become more reliable and accessible, they will be used by an increasing number of biologists, much as x-ray crystallography has expanded. Thus, many fundamental physical principles underlying the computational methods are described. This review presents a summary of the current state of molecular dynamics as applied to RNA. It is designed to be helpful to students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty who are considering or starting computational studies of RNA. WIREs RNA 2017, 8:e1422. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1422.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Models, Molecular*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA Folding*
  • Thermodynamics*


  • RNA