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Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Feb 28;46(4):1674-1683. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx1269.

A nucleobase-centered coarse-grained representation for structure prediction of RNA motifs.

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Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, 265, Via Bonomea I-34136 Trieste, Italy.


We introduce the SPlit-and-conQueR (SPQR) model, a coarse-grained (CG) representation of RNA designed for structure prediction and refinement. In our approach, the representation of a nucleotide consists of a point particle for the phosphate group and an anisotropic particle for the nucleoside. The interactions are, in principle, knowledge-based potentials inspired by the $\mathcal {E}$SCORE function, a base-centered scoring function. However, a special treatment is given to base-pairing interactions and certain geometrical conformations which are lost in a raw knowledge-based model. This results in a representation able to describe planar canonical and non-canonical base pairs and base-phosphate interactions and to distinguish sugar puckers and glycosidic torsion conformations. The model is applied to the folding of several structures, including duplexes with internal loops of non-canonical base pairs, tetraloops, junctions and a pseudoknot. For the majority of these systems, experimental structures are correctly predicted at the level of individual contacts. We also propose a method for efficiently reintroducing atomistic detail from the CG representation.

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