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Physics  1998 

A dynamic programming algorithm for RNA structure prediction including pseudoknots

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Abstract:

We describe a dynamic programming algorithm for predicting optimal RNA secondary structure, including pseudoknots. The algorithm has a worst case complexity of ${\cal O}(N^6)$ in time and ${\cal O}(N^4)$ in storage. The description of the algorithm is complex, which led us to adopt a useful graphical representation (Feynman diagrams) borrowed from quantum field theory. We present an implementation of the algorithm that generates the optimal minimum energy structure for a single RNA sequence, using standard RNA folding thermodynamic parameters augmented by a few parameters describing the thermodynamic stability of pseudoknots. We demonstrate the properties of the algorithm by using it to predict structures for several small pseudoknotted and non-pseudoknotted RNAs. Although the time and memory demands of the algorithm are steep, we believe this is the first algorithm to be able to fold optimal (minimum energy) pseudoknotted RNAs with the accepted RNA thermodynamic model.

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