ProbFold: a probabilistic method for integration of probing data in RNA secondary structure prediction

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Motivation: Recently, new RNA secondary structure probing techniques have been developed, including Next Generation Sequencing based methods capable of probing transcriptome-wide. These techniques hold great promise for improving structure prediction accuracy. However, each new data type comes with its own signal properties and biases, which may even be experiment specific. There is therefore a growing need for RNA structure prediction methods that can be automatically trained on new data types and readily extended to integrate and fully exploit multiple types of data.

Results: Here, we develop and explore a modular probabilistic approach for integrating probing data in RNA structure prediction. It can be automatically trained given a set of known structures with probing data. The approach is demonstrated on SHAPE datasets, where we evaluate and selectively model specific correlations. The approach often makes superior use of the probing data signal compared to other methods. We illustrate the use of ProbFold on multiple data types using both simulations and a small set of structures with both SHAPE, DMS and CMCT data. Technically, the approach combines stochastic context-free grammars (SCFGs) with probabilistic graphical models. This approach allows rapid adaptation and integration of new probing data types.

Availability and Implementation: ProbFold is implemented in C ++. Models are specified using simple textual formats. Data reformatting is done using separate C ++ programs. Source code, statically compiled binaries for x86 Linux machines, C ++ programs, example datasets and a tutorial is available from


Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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