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Nucleic Acids Res. Nov 11, 1992; 20(21): 5785–5795.
PMCID: PMC334417

Identifying constraints on the higher-order structure of RNA: continued development and application of comparative sequence analysis methods.


Comparative sequence analysis addresses the problem of RNA folding and RNA structural diversity, and is responsible for determining the folding of many RNA molecules, including 5S, 16S, and 23S rRNAs, tRNA, RNAse P RNA, and Group I and II introns. Initially this method was utilized to fold these sequences into their secondary structures. More recently, this method has revealed numerous tertiary correlations, elucidating novel RNA structural motifs, several of which have been experimentally tested and verified, substantiating the general application of this approach. As successful as the comparative methods have been in elucidating higher-order structure, it is clear that additional structure constraints remain to be found. Deciphering such constraints requires more sensitive and rigorous protocols, in addition to RNA sequence datasets that contain additional phylogenetic diversity and an overall increase in the number of sequences. Various RNA databases, including the tRNA and rRNA sequence datasets, continue to grow in number as well as diversity. Described herein is the development of more rigorous comparative analysis protocols. Our initial development and applications on different RNA datasets have been very encouraging. Such analyses on tRNA, 16S and 23S rRNA are substantiating previously proposed associations and are now beginning to reveal additional constraints on these molecules. A subset of these involve several positions that correlate simultaneously with one another, implying units larger than a basepair can be under a phylogenetic constraint.

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