Finding RNA structure in the unstructured RBPome


  • Y. Orenstein
  • U. Ohler
  • B. Berger


  • BMC Genomics


  • BMC Genomics 19 (1): 154


  • BACKGROUND: RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play vital roles in many processes in the cell. Different RBPs bind RNA with different sequence and structure specificities. While sequence specificities for a large set of 205 RBPs have been reported through the RNAcompete compendium, structure specificities are known for only a small fraction. The main limitation lies in the design of the RNAcompete technology, which tests RBP binding against unstructured RNA probes, making it difficult to infer structural preferences from these data. We recently developed RCK, an algorithm to infer sequence and structural binding models from RNAcompete data. The set of binding models enables, for the first time, a large-scale assessment of RNA structure in the RBPome. RESULTS: We re-validate and uncover the role of RNA structure in the RPBome through novel analysis of the largest-scale dataset to date. First, we show that RNA structure exists in presumably unstructured RNA probes and that its variability is correlated with RNA-binding. Second, we examine the structural binding preferences of RBPs and discover an overall preference to bind RNA loops. Third, we significantly improve protein-binding prediction using RNA structure, both in vitro and in vivo. Lastly, we demonstrate that RNA structural binding preferences can be inferred for new proteins from solely their amino acid content. CONCLUSIONS: By counter-intuitively demonstrating through our analysis that we can predict both the RNA structure of and RBP binding to these putatively unstructured RNAs, we transform a compendium of RNA-binding proteins into a valuable resource for structure-based binding models. We uncover the important role RNA structure plays in protein-RNA interaction for hundreds of RNA-binding proteins.