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RNA modifications in structure prediction – Status quo and future challenges

Tanzer, Andrea, Hofacker, Ivo L., Lorenz, Ronny
Methods 2019 v.156 pp. 32-39
DNA, derivatization, genes, isomerization, models, nucleobases, nucleotides, prediction, ribosomal RNA, transcriptome, transfer RNA
Chemical modifications of RNA nucleotides change their identity and characteristics and thus alter genetic and structural information encoded in the genomic DNA. tRNA and rRNA are probably the most heavily modified genes, and often depend on derivatization or isomerization of their nucleobases in order to correctly fold into their functional structures. Recent RNomics studies, however, report transcriptome wide RNA modification and suggest a more general regulation of structuredness of RNAs by this so called epitranscriptome. Modification seems to require specific substrate structures, which in turn are stabilized or destabilized and thus promote or inhibit refolding events of regulatory RNA structures.In this review, we revisit RNA modifications and the related structures from a computational point of view. We discuss known substrate structures, their properties such as sub-motifs as well as consequences of modifications on base pairing patterns and possible refolding events. Given that efficient RNA structure prediction methods for canonical base pairs have been established several decades ago, we review to what extend these methods allow the inclusion of modified nucleotides to model and study epitranscriptomic effects on RNA structures.