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PeerJ. 2018 Dec 18;6:e6136. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6136. eCollection 2018.

ScanFold: an approach for genome-wide discovery of local RNA structural elements-applications to Zika virus and HIV.

Author information

1
Roy J. Carver Department of Biophysics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA.

Abstract

In addition to encoding RNA primary structures, genomes also encode RNA secondary and tertiary structures that play roles in gene regulation and, in the case of RNA viruses, genome replication. Methods for the identification of functional RNA structures in genomes typically rely on scanning analysis windows, where multiple partially-overlapping windows are used to predict RNA structures and folding metrics to deduce regions likely to form functional structure. Separate structural models are produced for each window, where the step size can greatly affect the returned model. This makes deducing unique local structures challenging, as the same nucleotides in each window can be alternatively base paired. We are presenting here a new approach where all base pairs from analysis windows are considered and weighted by favorable folding. This results in unique base pairing throughout the genome and the generation of local regions/structures that can be ranked by their propensity to form unusually thermodynamically stable folds. We applied this approach to the Zika virus (ZIKV) and HIV-1 genomes. ZIKV is linked to a variety of neurological ailments including microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome and its (+)-sense RNA genome encodes two, previously described, functionally essential structured RNA regions. HIV, the cause of AIDS, contains multiple functional RNA motifs in its genome, which have been extensively studied. Our approach is able to successfully identify and model the structures of known functional motifs in both viruses, while also finding additional regions likely to form functional structures. All data have been archived at the RNAStructuromeDB (www.structurome.bb.iastate.edu), a repository of RNA folding data for humans and their pathogens.

KEYWORDS:

Bioinformatics; HIV; Motif discovery; RNA; RNA structure; Sequence analysis; Zika virus; ncRNA

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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