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Exploring RNA conformational space under sparse distance restraints

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journal contribution
posted on 15.10.2020 by William R Taylor, Russell S Hamilton
We show that the application of a small number of restraints predicted by coevolution analysis can provide a powerful restriction on the conformational freedom of an RNA molecule. The greatest degree of restriction occurs when a contact is predicted between the distal ends of a pair of adjacent stemloops but even with this location additional flexibilities in the molecule can mask the contribution. Multiple cross-links, especially those including a pseudoknot provided the strongest restraint on conformational freedom with the effect being most apparent in topologically simple folds and less so if the fold is more topologically entwined. Little was expected for large structures (over 300 bases) and although a few strong localised restrictions were observed, they contributed little to the restraint of the overall fold. Although contacts predicted using a correlated mutation analysis can provide some powerful restrictions on the conformational freedom of RNA molecules, they are too erratic in their occurrence and distribution to provide a general approach to the problem of RNA 3D structure prediction from sequence.