Secondary Structure Predictions for Long RNA Sequences Based on Inversion Excursions and MapReduce
Secondary structures of ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules play important roles in many biological processes including gene expression and regulation. Experimental observations and computing limitations suggest that we can approach the secondary structure prediction problem for long RNA sequences by segmenting them into shorter chunks, predicting the secondary structures of each chunk individually using existing prediction programs, and then assembling the results to give the structure of the original sequence. The selection of cutting points is a crucial component of the segmenting step. Noting that stem-loops and pseudo knots always contain an inversion, i.e., a stretch of nucleotides followed closely by its inverse complementary sequence, we developed two cutting methods for segmenting long RNA sequences based on inversion excursions: the centered and optimized method. Each step of searching for inversions, chunking, and predictions can be performed in parallel. In this paper we use a MapReduce framework, i.e., Hadoop, to extensively explore meaningful inversion stem lengths and gap sizes for the segmentation and identify correlations between chunking methods and prediction accuracy. We show that for a set of long RNA sequences in the RFAM database, whose secondary structures are known to contain pseudo knots, our approach predicts secondary structures more accurately than methods that do not segment the sequence, when the latter predictions are possible computationally. We also show that, as sequences exceed certain lengths, some programs cannot computationally predict pseudo knots while our chunking methods can. Overall, our predicted structures still retain the accuracy level of the original prediction programs when compared with known experimental secondary structure.