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RNAexinv: An extended inverse RNA folding from shape and physical attributes to sequences

Assaf Avihoo, Alexander Churkin and Danny Barash*

Author Affiliations

Department of Computer Science, Ben-Gurion University, 84105 Beer Sheva, Israel

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:319  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-319

Published: 3 August 2011



RNAexinv is an interactive java application that performs RNA sequence design, constrained to yield a specific RNA shape and physical attributes. It is an extended inverse RNA folding program with the rationale behind that the generated sequences should not only fold into a desired structure, but they should also exhibit favorable attributes such as thermodynamic stability and mutational robustness. RNAexinv considers not only the secondary structure in order to design sequences, but also the mutational robustness and the minimum free energy. The sequences that are generated may not fully conform with the given RNA secondary structure, but they will strictly conform with the RNA shape of the given secondary structure and thereby take into consideration the recommended values of thermodynamic stability and mutational robustness that are provided.


The output consists of designed sequences that are generated by the proposed method. Selecting a sequence displays the secondary structure drawings of the target and the predicted fold of the sequence, including some basic information about the desired and achieved thermodynamic stability and mutational robustness. RNAexinv can be used successfully without prior experience, simply specifying an initial RNA secondary structure in dot-bracket notation and numerical values for the desired neutrality and minimum free energy. The package runs under LINUX operating system. Secondary structure predictions are performed using the Vienna RNA package.


RNAexinv is a user friendly tool that can be used for RNA sequence design. It is especially useful in cases where a functional stem-loop structure of a natural sequence should be strictly kept in the designed sequences but a distant motif in the rest of the structure may contain one more or less nucleotide at the expense of another, as long as the global shape is preserved. This allows the insertion of physical observables as constraints. RNAexinv is available at webcite.