Optimal computer folding of large RNA sequences using thermodynamics and auxiliary information

Nucleic Acids Res. 1981 Jan 10;9(1):133-48. doi: 10.1093/nar/9.1.133.


This paper presents a new computer method for folding an RNA molecule that finds a conformation of minimum free energy using published values of stacking and destabilizing energies. It is based on a dynamic programming algorithm from applied mathematics, and is much more efficient, faster, and can fold larger molecules than procedures which have appeared up to now in the biological literature. Its power is demonstrated in the folding of a 459 nucleotide immunoglobulin gamma 1 heavy chain messenger RNA fragment. We go beyond the basic method to show how to incorporate additional information into the algorithm. This includes data on chemical reactivity and enzyme susceptibility. We illustrate this with the folding of two large fragments from the 16S ribosomal RNA of Escherichia coli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition
  • Base Sequence
  • Calorimetry
  • Computers
  • Escherichia coli / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin gamma-Chains / genetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Weight
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • RNA*
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • Thermodynamics


  • Immunoglobulin gamma-Chains
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA