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This article is part of the supplement: Ninth International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB2010): Bioinformatics

Open Access Proceedings

Robust and accurate prediction of noncoding RNAs from aligned sequences

Yutaka Saito1, Kengo Sato123 and Yasubumi Sakakibara1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biosciences and Informatics, Keio University, 3-14-1 Hiyoshi, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 223-8522, Japan

2 Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8561, Japan

3 Computational Biology Research Center (CBRC), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), 2-42 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11(Suppl 7):S3  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-S7-S3

Published: 15 October 2010



Computational prediction of noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) is an important task in the post-genomic era. One common approach is to utilize the profile information contained in alignment data rather than single sequences. However, this strategy involves the possibility that the quality of input alignments can influence the performance of prediction methods. Therefore, the evaluation of the robustness against alignment errors is necessary as well as the development of accurate prediction methods.


We describe a new method, called Profile BPLA kernel, which predicts ncRNAs from alignment data in combination with support vector machines (SVMs). Profile BPLA kernel is an extension of base-pairing profile local alignment (BPLA) kernel which we previously developed for the prediction from single sequences. By utilizing the profile information of alignment data, the proposed kernel can achieve better accuracy than the original BPLA kernel. We show that Profile BPLA kernel outperforms the existing prediction methods which also utilize the profile information using the high-quality structural alignment dataset. In addition to these standard benchmark tests, we extensively evaluate the robustness of Profile BPLA kernel against errors in input alignments. We consider two different types of error: first, that all sequences in an alignment are actually ncRNAs but are aligned ignoring their secondary structures; second, that an alignment contains unrelated sequences which are not ncRNAs but still aligned. In both cases, the effects on the performance of Profile BPLA kernel are surprisingly small. Especially for the latter case, we demonstrate that Profile BPLA kernel is more robust compared to the existing prediction methods.


Profile BPLA kernel provides a promising way for identifying ncRNAs from alignment data. It is more accurate than the existing prediction methods, and can keep its performance under the practical situations in which the quality of input alignments is not necessarily high.