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R-chie: a web server and R package for visualizing RNA secondary structures

Nucleic Acids Research
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1093/nar/gks241
  • Methods Online
  • Computer Science


Visually examining RNA structures can greatly aid in understanding their potential functional roles and in evaluating the performance of structure prediction algorithms. As many functional roles of RNA structures can already be studied given the secondary structure of the RNA, various methods have been devised for visualizing RNA secondary structures. Most of these methods depict a given RNA secondary structure as a planar graph consisting of base-paired stems interconnected by roundish loops. In this article, we present an alternative method of depicting RNA secondary structure as arc diagrams. This is well suited for structures that are difficult or impossible to represent as planar stem-loop diagrams. Arc diagrams can intuitively display pseudo-knotted structures, as well as transient and alternative structural features. In addition, they facilitate the comparison of known and predicted RNA secondary structures. An added benefit is that structure information can be displayed in conjunction with a corresponding multiple sequence alignments, thereby highlighting structure and primary sequence conservation and variation. We have implemented the visualization algorithm as a web server R-chie as well as a corresponding R package called R4RNA, which allows users to run the software locally and across a range of common operating systems.

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