The Program RNAfold


Our first task will be to do a structure prediction using RNAfold. This should get you familiar with the input and output format as well as the graphical output produced.

RNAfold reads single RNA sequences, computes their minimum free energy (MFE) structures, and prints the result together with the corresponding MFE structure in dot-bracket notation. This is the default mode if no further command line parameters are provided. Please note, that the RNAfold program can either be used in interactive mode, where the program expects the input from stdin, or in batch processing mode where you provide the input sequences as text files.

Partition function

To activate computation of the partition function for each sequence, the -p option must be set. From the partition function

\[Q = \sum_{s \in \Omega} exp(-E(s) / RT)\]

over the ensemble of all possible structures \(\Omega\), with temperature \(T\) and gas constant \(R\), RNAfold then computes the ensemble free energy \(G = -RT \cdot ln(Q)\), and frequency of the MFE structure \(s_{mfe}\) within the ensemble

\[p = exp(-E(s_{mfe}) / RT) / Q\]

Ensemble diversity

By default, the -p option also activates the computation of base pairing probabilities \(p_{ij}\). From this data, RNAfold then determines the ensemble diversity

\[\langle d \rangle = \sum_{ij} p_{ij} \cdot (1 - p_{ij}),\]

i.e. the expected distance between any two secondary structure, as well as the centroid structure, i.e. the structure \(s_c\) with the least Boltzmann weighted distance

\[d_\Omega(s_c) = \sum_{\substack{s \in \Omega}} p(s) d(s_c, s)\]

to all other structures \(s \in \Omega\).

Maximum Expected Accuracy

Another useful structure representative one can determine from base pairing probabilities \(p_{ij}\) is the structure that exhibits the maximum expected accuracy (MEA). By assuming the base pair probability is a good measure of correctnes of a pair \((i,j)\), the expected accuracy of a structure \(s\) is

\[\begin{split}\text{EA}(s) = \sum_{\substack{(i,j) \in s}} 2\gamma p_{ij} + \sum_{\substack{i \\ \nexists (i,j) \in s}} q_i\end{split}\]

with \(q_i = 1 - \sum_j p_{ij}\) and weighting factor \(\gamma\) that allows us to weight paired against unpaired positions. RNAfold uses a dynamic programming scheme similar to the Maximum Matching algorithm of Ruth Nussinov to find the structure \(s\) that minimizes the above equation.

The RNAfold program provides a large amount of additional computation modes that will be partly covered below. To get a full list of all computation modes available, please consult the RNAfold man page or the outputs of RNAfold -h and RNAfold --detailed-help.

MFE structure of a single sequence

  • Use a text editor (emacs, vi, nano, gedit) to prepare an input file by pasting the text below and save it under the name test.seq in your Data folder:

    > test


  • Compute the best (MFE) structure for this sequence using batch processing mode

    $ RNAfold test.seq
    ...........((((...)))). ( -5.00)
  • or use the interactive mode and redirect the content of test.seq to stdin

    $ RNAfold < text.seq
    ...........((((...)))). ( -5.00)
  • alternatively, you could use the interactive mode and manually enter the sequence as soon as RNAfold prompts for input

    $ RNAfold
    Input string (upper or lower case); @ to quit
    length = 23
     minimum free energy =  -5.00 kcal/mol

All the above variants to compute the MFE and the corresponding structure result in identical output, except for slight variations in the formatting when true interactive mode is used. The last line(s) of the text output contains the predicted MFE structure in dot-bracket notation and its free energy in kcal/mol. A dot in the dot-bracket notation represents an unpaired position, while a base pair (i, j) is represented by a pair of matching parentheses at position i and j.

If the input was FASTA formatted, i.e. the sequence was preceded by a header line with sequence identifier, RNAfold creates a structure layout file named, where test is the sequence identifier as provided through the FASTA header. In case the header was omitted the output file name simply is

Let’s take a look at the output file with your favorite PostScript viewer, e.g. gv.


In contrast to bitmap based image files (such as GIF or JPEG) PostScript files contain resolution independent vector graphics, suitable for publication. They can be viewed on-screen using a postscript viewer such as gv or evince. Also note the & at the end of the following command line that simply detaches the program call and immediately starts the program in the background.

$ gv &

Compare the dot-bracket notation to the PostScript drawing shown in the file test_ss.eps.

You can use the -t option to change the layout algorithm RNAfold uses to produce the plot. The most simply layout is the radial layout that can be chosen with -t 0. Here, each nucleotide in a loop is equally spaced on its enclosing circle. The more sophisticated Naview layout algorithm is used by default but may be explicitly chosen through -t 1. A hidden feature can be found with -t 2, where RNAfold creates a most simple circular plot.

The calculation above does not tell us whether we can actually trust the predicted structure. In fact, there may be many more possible structures that might be equally probable. To find out about that, let’s have a look at the equilibrium ensemble instead.

Equilibrium ensemble properties

  • Run:

    $ RNAfold -p --MEA

    to compute the partition function, pair probabilities, centroid structure, and the maximum expected accuracy (MEA) structure.

  • Have a look at the generated PostScript files and

    $ RNAfold -p --MEA test.seq
    ...........((((...)))). ( -5.00)
    ....{,{{...||||...)}}}. [ -5.72]
    ....................... {  0.00 d=4.66}
    ......((...))((...))... {  2.90 MEA=14.79}
     frequency of mfe structure in ensemble 0.311796; ensemble diversity 6.36

Here the last four lines are new compared to the text output without the -p --MEA options. The partition function is already a rough measure for the well-definedness of the MFE structure. The third line shows a condensed representation of the pair probabilities of each nucleotide, similar to the dot-bracket notation, followed by the ensemble free energy (\(G = -kT \cdot ln(Z)\)) in units of kcal/mol. Here, the dot-bracket like notation consists of additional characters that denote the pairing propensity for each nucleotide. . denotes bases that are essentially unpaired, , weakly paired, | strongly paired without preference, {}, () weakly (\(>\) 33%) upstream (downstream) paired or strongly (\(>\) 66%) up-/downstream paired bases, respectively.

The next two lines represent (i) the centroid structure with its free energy and distance to the ensemble, and (ii) the MEA structure, it’s free energy and the actual accuracy. The very last line shows the frequency of the MFE structure in the ensemble of secondary structures and the diversity of the ensemble as discussed above.

Note that the MFE structure is adopted only with 31% probability, also the diversity is very high for such a short sequence.

Rotate the structure plot


To rotate the secondary structure plot that is generated by RNAfold the ViennaRNA Package provides the perl script utility Just read the perldoc for this tool to know how to handle the rotation and use the information to get your secondary structure in a vertical position.

$ perldoc

The base pair probability dot plot


The dot plot ( shows the pair probabilities within the equilibrium ensemble as \(n\times n\) matrix, and is an excellent way to visualize structural alternatives. A square at row \(i\) and column \(j\) indicates a base pair. The area of a square in the upper right half of the matrix is proportional to the probability of the base pair \((i,j)\) within the equilibrium ensemble. The lower left half shows all pairs belonging to the MFE structure. While the MFE consists of a single helix, several different helices are visualized in the pair probabilities.

While a base pair probability dot-plot is quite handy to interpret for short sequences, it quickly becomes confusing the longer the RNA sequence is. Still, this is (currently) the only output of base pair probabilities for the RNAfold program. Nevertheless, since the dot plot is a true PostScript file, one can retrieve the individual base pair probabilities by parsing its textual content.

  • Open the dot plot with your favorite text editor

  • Locate the lines that that follow the scheme

    i j v ubox

    where \(i\) and \(j\) are integer values and \(v\) is a floating point decimal with values between \(0\) and \(1\). These are the data for the boxes drawn in the upper triangle. The integer values \(i\) and \(j\) denote the nucleotide positions while the value \(v\) is the square-root of the probability of base pair \((i,j)\). Thus, the actual base pair probability \(p(i,j) = v \cdot v\).

Mountain and Reliability plot

Next, let’s use the utility to annotate which parts of a predicted MFE structure are well-defined and thus more reliable. Also let’s use a real example for a change and produce yet another representation of the predicted structure, the mountain plot.

Fold the 5S rRNA sequence and visualize the structure. (The 5S.seq is shipped with the tutorial)

$ RNAfold -p 5S.seq
$ | xmgrace -pipe
$ >
../_images/5S_mt.png ../_images/5S_rot.png

A mountain plot is especially useful for long sequences where conventional structure drawings become terribly cluttered. It is a xy-diagram plotting the number of base pairs enclosing a sequence position versus the position. The Perl script transforms a dot plot into the mountain plot coordinates which can be visualized with any xy-plotting program, e.g. xmgrace.

The resulting plot shows three curves, two mountain plots derived from the MFE structure (red) and the pairing probabilities (black) and a positional entropy curve (green). Well-defined regions are identified by low entropy. By superimposing several mountain plots structures can easily be compared.

The perl script adds reliability information to a RNA secondary structure plot in the form of color annotation. The script computes a well-definedness measure we call ``positional entropy’’

\[S(i) = -\sum p_{ij}\log(p_{ij})\]

and encodes it as color hue, ranging from red (low entropy, well-defined) via green to blue and violet (high entropy, ill-defined). In the example above two helices of the 5S RNA are well-defined (red) and indeed predicted correctly, the left arm is not quite correct and disordered.

For the figure above we had to rotate and mirror the structure plot, e.g.

$ -a 180 -m >

Batch job processing

In most cases, one doesn’t only want to predict the structure and equilibrium probabilities for a single RNA sequence but a set of sequences. RNAfold is perfectly suited for this task since it provides several different mechanisms to support batch job processing. First, in interactive mode, it only stops processing input from stdin if it is requested to do so. This means that after processing one sequence, it will prompt for the input of the next sequence. Entering the @ character will forcefully abort processing. In situations where the input is provided through input stream redirection, it will end processing as soon stream is closed.

In constrat to that, the batch processing mode where one simply specifies input files as so-called unnamed command line parameters, the number of input sequences is more or less unlimited. You can specify as many input files as your terminal emulator allows, and each input file may consist of arbitrarily many sequences. However, please note that mixing FASTA and non-fasta input is not allowed and will most likely produce bogus output.

Assume you have four input files file_0.fa, file_1.fa, file_2.fa, and file_3.fa. Each file contains a set of RNA sequences in FASTA format. Predicting secondary structures for all sequences in all files with a single call to RNAfold and redirecting the output to a file all_sequences_output.fold can be achieved like this: .. code:

$ RNAfold file_0.fa file_1.fa file_2.fa file_3.fa > all_sequences_output.fold

The above call to RNAfold will open each of the files and process the sequences sequentially. This, however, might take a long time and the sequential processing will most likely bore out your multi-core workstation or laptop computer, since only a single core is used for the computations while the others are idle. If you happen to have more than a single CPU core and want to take advantage of the available parallel processing power, you can use the -j option of RNAfold to split the input into concurrent jobs.

$ RNAfold -j file_*.fa > all_sequences_output.fold

This command will uses as many CPU cores as available and, therefore, process you input much faster. If you want to limit the number of concurrent jobs to a particular number, say \(2\), to leave the remaining cores available for other tasks, you can append the number of jobs directly to the -j option: .. code:

$ RNAfold -j2 file_*.fa > all_sequences_output.fold

Note here, that there must not be any space between the j and the number of jobs.

Now imagine what happens if you have a larger set of sequences that are not stored in FASTA format. If you would serve such an input to RNAfold, it would happily process each of the sequences but always over-write the structure layout and dot-plot files, since the default names for these files are and for any sequence. This is usually an undesired behavior, where RNAfold and the --auto-id option becomes handy. This option flag forces RNAfold to automatically create a sequence identifier for each input, thus using different file names for each single output. The identifier that is created follows the form .. code:


where sequence is a prefix, followed by the delimiting character _, and an increasing 4-digit number XXXX starting at 0000. This feature is even useful if the input is in FASTA format, but one wants to enforce a novel naming scheme for the sequences. As soon as the --auto-id option is set, RNAfold will ignore any id taken from existing FASTA headers in the input files.

See also the man page of RNAfold to find out how to modify the prefix, delimiting character, start number and number of digits.

  • Create an input file with many RNA sequences, each on a separate line, e.g.:

    $ randseq -n 127 > many_files.seq
  • Compute the MFE structure for each of the sequences and generate output ids with numbers between \(100\) and \(226\) and prefix test_seq:

    $ RNAfold --auto-id --id-start=100 --id-prefix="test_seq" many_files.seq

Add constraints to the structure prediction

For some scientific questions one requires additional constraints that must be enforced when predicting secondary structures. For instance, one might have resolved parts of the structure already and is simply interested in the optimal conformation of the remaining part of the molecule. Another example would be that one already knows that particular nucleotides can not participate in any base pair, since they are physically hindered to do so. These types of constraints are termed hard constraints and they can enforce or prohibit particular conformations, thus include or omit structures with these feature from the set candidate ensemble.

Another type of constraints are so-called soft constraints, that enable one to adjust the free energy contributions of particular conformations. For instance, one could add a bonus energy if a particular (stretch of) nucleotides is left unpaired to emulate the binding free energy of a single strand binding protein. The same can be applied to base pairs, for instance one could add a penalizing energy term if a particular base pair is formed to make it less likely.

The RNAfold programs comes with a comprehensive hard and soft constraints support and provides several convenience command line parameters to ease constraint application.

The most simple hard constraint that can be applied is the maximum base pair span, i.e. the maximum number of nucleotides a particular base pair may span. This constraint can be applied with the --maxBPspan option followed by an integer number.

  • Compute the secondary structure for the 5S.seq input file

  • Now limit the maximum base pair span to \(50\) and compare both results:

    $ RNAfold --maxBPspan 50 5S.seq

Now assume you already know parts of the structure and want to fill-in an optimal remaining part. You can do that by using the -C option and adding an additional line in dot-bracket notation to the input (after the sequence) that corresponds to the known structure:

  • Prepare the input file hard_const_example.fa:


    Note here, that we left out the remainder of the input structure constraint that will eventually be used to enforce a helix of 4 base pairs at the beginning of the sequence. You may also fill the remainder of the constraint with dots to silence any warnings issued by RNAfold.

  • Compute the MFE structure for the input:

    $ RNAfold hard_const_example.fa
    ........((((((...((((.................))))..)))))) ( -8.00)
  • Now compute the MFE structure under the provided constraint:

    $ RNAfold -C hard_const_example.fa
    ..((((.....))))....(((((..((((........)).))..))))) ( -7.90)
  • Due to historic reasons, the -C option alone only forbids any base pairs that are incompatible with the constraint, rather than enforcing the constraint. Thus, if you compute equilibrium probabilities, structures that are missing the small helix in the beginning are still part of the ensemble. If you want to compute the pairing probabilities upon forcing the small helix at the beginning, you can add the --enforceConstraint option:

    $ RNAfold -p -C --enforceConstraint hard_const_example.fa
    ..((((.....))))....(((((..((((........)).))..))))) ( -7.90)

    Have a look at the differences in ensemble free energy and base pair probabilities between the results obtained with and without the --enforceConstraint option.

A more thorough alternative to provide constraints is to use the --commands option and a corresponding commands file. This allows one to specify constraints on nucleotide or base pair level and even to restrict a constraint to particular loop types. A commands file is a simple multi column text file with one constraint on each line. A line starts with a one- or two-letter command, followed by multiple values that specify the addressed nucleotides, the loop context restriction, and, for soft constraints, the strength of the constraint in \(kcal/mol\). The syntax is as follows:

F i 0 k   [TYPE] [ORIENTATION] # Force nucleotides i...i+k-1 to be paired
F i j k   [TYPE] # Force helix of size k starting with (i,j) to be formed
P i 0 k   [TYPE] # Prohibit nucleotides i...i+k-1 to be paired
P i j k   [TYPE] # Prohibit pairs (i,j),...,(i+k-1,j-k+1)
P i-j k-l [TYPE] # Prohibit pairing between two ranges
C i 0 k   [TYPE] # Nucleotides i,...,i+k-1 must appear in context TYPE
C i j k          # Remove pairs conflicting with (i,j),...,(i+k-1,j-k+1)
E i 0 k e        # Add pseudo-energy e to nucleotides i...i+k-1
E i j k e        # Add pseudo-energy e to pairs (i,j),...,(i+k-1,j-k+1)


[TYPE]        = { E, H, I, i, M, m, A }
  • Prepare a commands file test.constraints that forces the first 5 nucleotides to pair and the following 3 nucleotides to stay unpaired as part of a multi-branch loop:

    F 1 0 5
    C 6 0 3 M
  • Use the randseq program to generate multiple sequences and compute the MFE structure for each under the constraints prepared earlier:

    $ randseq -n 20 | RNAfold --commands test.constraints

    Inspect the output to assure yourself that hte commands have been applied

A few much more sophisticated constraints will be discussed below.

SHAPE directed RNA folding

In order to further improve the quality of secondary structure predictions, mapping experiments like SHAPE (selective 2’-hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension) can be used to exerimentally determine the pairing status for each nucleotide. In addition to thermodynamic based secondary structure predictions, RNAfold supports the incorporation of this additional experimental data as soft constraints.

If you want to use SHAPE data to guide the folding process, please make sure that your experimental data is present in a text file, where each line stores three white space separated columns containing the position, the abbreviation and the normalized SHAPE reactivity for a certain nucleotide.

1 G 0.134
2 C 0.044
3 C 0.057
4 G 0.114
5 U 0.094
71 C 0.035
72 G 0.909
73 C 0.224
74 C 0.529
75 A 1.475

The second column, which holds the nucleotide abbreviation, is optional. If it is present, the data will be used to perform a cross check against the provided input sequence. Missing SHAPE reactivities for certain positions can be indicated by omitting the reactivity column or the whole line. Negative reactivities will be treated as missing. Once the SHAPE file is ready, it can be used to constrain folding:

$ RNAfold --shape=rna.shape --shapeMethod=D < rna.seq

A small compilation of reference data taken from Hajdin et al. [2013] is available online However, the included reference structures are only available in connect (.ct) format and require conversion into dot-bracket notation to compare them against predicted structures with RNAfold. Furthermore, the normalized SHAPE data is available as Excel spreadsheet and also requires some pre-processing to make it available for RNAfold.

Adding ligand interactions

RNA molecules are known to interact with other molecules, such as additional RNAs, proteins, or other small ligand molecules. Some interactions with small ligands that take place in loops of an RNA structure can be modeled in terms of soft constraints. However, to stay compatible with the recursive decomposition scheme for secondary structures they are limited to the unpaired nucleotides of hairpins and internal loops.

The RNAlib library of the ViennaRNA Package implements a most general form of constraints capability. However, the available programs do not allow for a full access to the implemented features. Nevertheless, RNAfold provides a convenience option that allows to easily include ligand binding to hairpin- or interior-loop like aptamer motifs. For that purpose, a user needs only to provide motif and a binding free energy.

Consider the following example file theo.fa for a theophylline triggered riboswitch with the sequence:


The theopylline aptamer structure has been actively researched during the last two decades.


Although the actual aptamer part (marked in blue) is not a simple interior loop, it can still be modeled as such. It consists of two delimiting base pairs (G,C) at the 5’ site, and another (G,C) at its 3’ end. That is already enough to satisfy the requirements for the --motif option of RNAfold. Together with the aptamer sequence motif, the entire aptamer can be written down in dot-bracket form as:


Note here, that we separated the 5’ and 3’ part from each other using the & character. This enables us to omit the variable hairpin end of the aptamer from the specification in our model.

The only ingredient that is still missing is the actual stabilizing energy contribution induced by the ligand binding into the aptamer pocket. But several experimental and computational studies have already determined dissociation constants for this system. Jenison et al. [1994], for instance, determined a dissociation constant of \(K_d = 0.32\mu M\) which, for standard reference concentration \(c = 1 mol/L\), can be translated into a binding free energy

\[\Delta G = RT \cdot \ln \frac{K_d}{c} \approx -9.22~kcal/mol\]

Finally, we can compute the MFE structure for our example sequence

$ RNAfold -v --motif "GAUACCAG&CCCUUGGCAGC,(...((((&)...)))...),-9.22" theo.fa

Compare the predicted MFE structure with and without modeling the ligand interaction. You may also enable partition function computation to compute base pair probabilities, the centroid structure and MEA structure to investigate the effect of ligand binding on ensemble diversity.


G-Quadruplexes are a common conformation found in G-rich sequences where four runs of consecutive G’s are separated by three short sequence stretches.


They form local self-enclosed stacks of G-quartets bound together through 8 Hogsteen-Watson Crick bonds and further stabilized by a metal ion (usually potassium).


To acknowledge the competition of regular secondary structure and G-quadruplex formation, the ViennaRNA Package implements an extension to the default recursion scheme. For that purpose, G-quadruplexes are simply considered a different type of substructure that may be incorporated like any other substructure. The free energy of a particular G-quadruplex at temperature \(T\) is determined by a simple energy model

\[E(L, l_{tot}, T) = a(t) \cdot (L - 1) + b(T) \cdot ln(l_{tot} - 2)\]

that only considers the number of stacked layers \(L\) and the total size of the three linker sequences \(l_{tot} = l_1 + l_2 + l_3\) connecting the G runs. Linker sequence and assymetry effects as well as relative strand orientations (parallel, anti-parallel or mixed) are entirely neglected in this model. The free energy parameters

\[a(T) = H_a + TS_a\]


\[b(T) = H_b + TS_b\]

have been determined from experimental UV-melting data taken from Zhang et al. [2011].

RNAfold allows one to activate the G-quadruplex implementation by simply providing the -g switch. G-quadruplexes are then taken into account for MFE and equilibrium probability computations.

((((((..........++.++..++.++)))))) (-21.39)
((((((..........(..........))))))) [-21.83]
((((((..........++.++..++.++)))))) {-21.39 d=0.04}
 frequency of mfe structure in ensemble 0.491118; ensemble diversity 0.08

The resulting structure layout and dot plot PostScript files depict the prediced G-quadruplexes as hairpin-like loops with additional bonds between the interacting G’s, and green triangles where the color intensity encodes the G-quadruplex probability, respectively. Have a closer look at the actual G-quadruplex probabilities by opening the dot plot PostScript file with a text browser again.


A better drawing of the predicted G-quadruplex might look as follows


Repeat the above analysis for other RNA sequences that might contain and form a G-quadruplex, e.g. the human telomerase RNA component hTERC:


SSB protein interaction

Similar to the ligand interactions discussed above, a single strand binding (SSB) protein might bind to consecutively unpaired sequence motifs. To model such interactions the ViennaRNA Package implements yet another extension to the folding grammar to cover all cases a protein may bind to, termed unstructured domains. This is in contrast to the ligand binding example above that uses the soft constraints implementation, and is, therefore, restricted to unpaired hairpin- and interior-loops.

To make use of this implementation in RNAfold one has to resort to command files again. Here, an unstructured domain (UD) can be easily added using the following syntax:

UD m e [LOOP]

where m is the sequence motif the protein binds to in IUPAC format, e is the binding free energy in \(kcal/mol\), and the optional LOOP specifier allows for restricting the binding to particular loop types, e.g. M for multibranch loops, or E for the exterior loop. See the syntax for command files above for an overview of all loop types available.

As an example, consider the protein binding experiment taken from Forties and Bundschuh [2010]. Here, the authors investigate a hypothetical unspecific RNA binding protein with a footprint of \(6~nt\) and a binding energy of \(\Delta G = -10~kcal/mol\) at \(1~M\). With \(T = 37^\circ C\) and

\[\Delta G = RT \cdot \ln \frac{K_d}{c}\]

this translates into a dissociation constant of

\[K_d = exp(\Delta G / RT) = 8.983267433 \cdot 10^{-8}.\]

Hence, the binding energies at \(50~nM\), \(100~nM\), \(400~nM\), and \(1~\mu M\) are \(0.36~kcal/mol\), \(-0.07~kcal/mol\), \(-0.92~kcal/mol\), and \(-1.49~kcal/mol\), respectively.

The RNA sequence file forties_bundschuh.fa for this experiment is:


which yields the following MFE structure


To model the protein binding for this example with RNAfold we require a commands file for each of the concentrations in question. Thus, one simply creates text files with a single line content:


where e is the binding free energy at this specific protein concentration as computed above. Note here, that we use NNNNNN as sequence motif that is bound by the protein to acknowledge the unspecific interaction between protein and RNA. Finally, RNAfold is executed to compute equilibrium base pairing and per-nucleotide protein binding probabilities .. code:

$ RNAfold -p --commands forties_50nM.txt forties_bundschuh.fa

and the produced probability dot plot can be inspected.


As you can see, the dot plot is augmented with an additional linear array of blue squares along each side that depicts the probability that the respective nucleotide is bound by the protein. Now, repeat the computations for different protein concentrations and compare the probabilities computed with the unstructured domain feature of the ViennaRNA Package with those in Fig. 3(a) of the publication.

Note, that RNAfold allows for an unlimited number of different proteins specified in the commands file. This easily allows one to model RNA-protein binding interaction within a relatively complex solution of different competing proteins.

Change other model settings

RNAfold also allows for many other changes of the implemented Nearest Neighbor model. For instance, you can explicitly prohibit \((G,U)\) pairs, change the temperature that is used for evaluation of the free energy of particular loops, select a different dangling-end energy model or load a different set of free energy parameters, e.g. for DNA or parameters derived from computational optimizations.

See the man pages of RNAfold for a complete overview of all available options and command line switches. Additional energy parameter collections are distributed together with the ViennaRNA Package as part of the contents of the misc/ directory, and are typically installed in prefix/share/ViennaRNA, where prefix is the path that was used as installation prefix, e.g. $HOME/Tutorial/Progs/VRP or /usr when installed globally using a package manager.