Protein-assisted RNA fragment docking (RnaX) for modeling RNA–protein interactions using ModelX


RNA–protein interactions are crucial for such key biological processes as regulation of transcription, splicing, translation, and gene silencing, among many others. Knowing where an RNA molecule interacts with a target protein and/or engineering an RNA molecule to specifically bind to a protein could allow for rational interference with these cellular processes and the design of novel therapies. Here we present a robust RNA–protein fragment pair-based method, termed RnaX, to predict RNA-binding sites. This methodology, which is integrated into the ModelX tool suite (, takes advantage of the structural information present in all released RNA–protein complexes. This information is used to create an exhaustive database for docking and a statistical forcefield for fast discrimination of true backbone-compatible interactions. RnaX, together with the protein design forcefield FoldX, enables us to predict RNA–protein interfaces and, when sufficient crystallographic information is available, to reengineer the interface at the sequence-specificity level by mimicking those conformational changes that occur on protein and RNA mutagenesis. These results, obtained at just a fraction of the computational cost of methods that simulate conformational dynamics, open up perspectives for the engineering of RNA–protein interfaces.

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