Motivation: RNA thermometers (RNATs) are cis-regulatory elements that change secondary structure upon temperature shift. Often involved in the regulation of heat shock, cold shock and virulence genes, RNATs constitute an interesting potential resource in synthetic biology, where engineered RNATs could prove to be useful tools in biosensors and conditional gene regulation.
Results: Solving the 2-temperature inverse folding problem is critical for RNAT engineering. Here we introduce RNAiFold2T, the first Constraint Programming (CP) and Large Neighborhood Search (LNS) algorithms to solve this problem. Benchmarking tests of RNAiFold2T against existent programs (adaptive walk and genetic algorithm) inverse folding show that our software generates two orders of magnitude more solutions, thus allowing ample exploration of the space of solutions. Subsequently, solutions can be prioritized by computing various measures, including probability of target structure in the ensemble, melting temperature, etc. Using this strategy, we rationally designed two thermosensor internal ribosome entry site (thermo-IRES) elements, whose normalized cap-independent translation efficiency is approximately 50% greater at 42 °C than 30 °C, when tested in reticulocyte lysates. Translation efficiency is lower than that of the wild-type IRES element, which on the other hand is fully resistant to temperature shift-up. This appears to be the first purely computational design of functional RNA thermoswitches, and certainly the first purely computational design of functional thermo-IRES elements.
Availability: RNAiFold2T is publicly available as part of the new release RNAiFold3.0 at https://github.com/clotelab/RNAiFold and http://bioinformatics.bc.edu/clotelab/RNAiFold, which latter has a web server as well. The software is written in C ++ and uses OR-Tools CP search engine.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.