Genomic mid-range inhomogeneity correlates with an abundance of RNA secondary structures

Bechtel, Jason M.; Wittenschlaeger, Thomas; Dwyer, Trisha; Song, Jun; Arunachalam, Sasi; Ramakrishnan, Sadeesh K.; Shepard, Samuel; Fedorov, Alexei
January 2008
BMC Genomics;2008, Vol. 9, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Background: Genomes possess different levels of non-randomness, in particular, an inhomogeneity in their nucleotide composition. Inhomogeneity is manifest from the short-range where neighboring nucleotides influence the choice of base at a site, to the long-range, commonly known as isochores, where a particular base composition can span millions of nucleotides. A separate genomic issue that has yet to be thoroughly elucidated is the role that RNA secondary structure (SS) plays in gene expression. Results: We present novel data and approaches that show that a mid-range inhomogeneity (~30 to 1000 nt) not only exists in mammalian genomes but is also significantly associated with strong RNA SS. A whole-genome bioinformatics investigation of local SS in a set of 11,315 non-redundant human pre-mRNA sequences has been carried out. Four distinct components of these molecules (5'-UTRs, exons, introns and 3'-UTRs) were considered separately, since they differ in overall nucleotide composition, sequence motifs and periodicities. For each pre-mRNA component, the abundance of strong local SS (< -25 kcal/ mol) was a factor of two to ten greater than a random expectation model. The randomization process preserves the short-range inhomogeneity of the corresponding natural sequences, thus, eliminating short-range signals as possible contributors to any observed phenomena. Conclusion: We demonstrate that the excess of strong local SS in pre-mRNAs is linked to the little explored phenomenon of genomic mid-range inhomogeneity (MRI). MRI is an interdependence between nucleotide choice and base composition over a distance of 20-1000 nt. Additionally, we have created a public computational resource to support further study of genomic MRI.


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