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J Mol Biol. 1993 Sep 20;233(2):261-9.

Structural analysis by energy dot plot of a large mRNA.

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Department of Microbiology, State University of New York at Stony Brook 11794-5222.


We have predicted the secondary structure of the entire 4217 nucleotide sequence of the genomic RNA of coliphage Q beta in one computer run using the computer program MFOLD that computes RNA structures within any prescribed increment of the computed minimum free energy. The results are presented in the form of an "energy dot plot" that shows both an optimal folding as well as the superposition of all base-pairs that can form in slightly suboptimal foldings. The plot reveals five large, well-determined, independent structural domains that cover approximately 50% of the viral genome. The predicted structural domains are consistent with and provide support for five large structural domains identified previously by quantitative electron microscopy in Q beta RNA. The dot plot also contains cluttered regions that indicate large numbers of alternative foldings within or between segments of an RNA molecule. These reflect the impossibility of accurate structure prediction and/or the biological reality of more than one folding. Weaker, long range structures, that are observed by electron microscopy in two alternate competing conformations, are located in the regions of the Q beta sequence that correspond to cluttered regions of the dot plot. The potential biological significance of these secondary structures is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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