Free Energy Minimization to Predict RNA Secondary Structures and Computational RNA Design
Determining the RNA secondary structure from sequence data by computational predictions is a long-standing problem. Its solution has been approached in two distinctive ways. If a multiple sequence alignment of a collection of homologous sequences is available, the comparative method uses phylogeny to determine conserved base pairs that are more likely to form as a result of billions of years of evolution than by chance. In the case of single sequences, recursive algorithms that compute free energy structures by using empirically derived energy parameters have been developed. This latter approach of RNA folding prediction by energy minimization is widely used to predict RNA secondary structure from sequence. For a significant number of RNA molecules, the secondary structure of the RNA molecule is indicative of its function and its computational prediction by minimizing its free energy is important for its functional analysis. A general method for free energy minimization to predict RNA secondary structures is dynamic programming, although other optimization methods have been developed as well along with empirically derived energy parameters. In this chapter, we introduce and illustrate by examples the approach of free energy minimization to predict RNA secondary structures.
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