bpRNA: large-scale automated annotation and analysis of RNA secondary structure

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Jun 20;46(11):5381-5394. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky285.


While RNA secondary structure prediction from sequence data has made remarkable progress, there is a need for improved strategies for annotating the features of RNA secondary structures. Here, we present bpRNA, a novel annotation tool capable of parsing RNA structures, including complex pseudoknot-containing RNAs, to yield an objective, precise, compact, unambiguous, easily-interpretable description of all loops, stems, and pseudoknots, along with the positions, sequence, and flanking base pairs of each such structural feature. We also introduce several new informative representations of RNA structure types to improve structure visualization and interpretation. We have further used bpRNA to generate a web-accessible meta-database, 'bpRNA-1m', of over 100 000 single-molecule, known secondary structures; this is both more fully and accurately annotated and over 20-times larger than existing databases. We use a subset of the database with highly similar (≥90% identical) sequences filtered out to report on statistical trends in sequence, flanking base pairs, and length. Both the bpRNA method and the bpRNA-1m database will be valuable resources both for specific analysis of individual RNA molecules and large-scale analyses such as are useful for updating RNA energy parameters for computational thermodynamic predictions, improving machine learning models for structure prediction, and for benchmarking structure-prediction algorithms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Base Pairing / genetics
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Inverted Repeat Sequences / genetics*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Software
  • Thermodynamics


  • RNA