Partner-specific prediction of RNA-binding residues in proteins: A critical assessment

Yong Jung, Yasser EL-Manzalawy, Drena Dobbs, Vasant G. Honavar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


RNA-protein interactions play essential roles in regulating gene expression. While some RNA-protein interactions are “specific”, that is, the RNA-binding proteins preferentially bind to particular RNA sequence or structural motifs, others are “non-RNA specific.” Deciphering the protein-RNA recognition code is essential for comprehending the functional implications of these interactions and for developing new therapies for many diseases. Because of the high cost of experimental determination of protein-RNA interfaces, there is a need for computational methods to identify RNA-binding residues in proteins. While most of the existing computational methods for predicting RNA-binding residues in RNA-binding proteins are oblivious to the characteristics of the partner RNA, there is growing interest in methods for partner-specific prediction of RNA binding sites in proteins. In this work, we assess the performance of two recently published partner-specific protein-RNA interface prediction tools, PS-PRIP, and PRIdictor, along with our own new tools. Specifically, we introduce a novel metric, RNA-specificity metric (RSM), for quantifying the RNA-specificity of the RNA binding residues predicted by such tools. Our results show that the RNA-binding residues predicted by previously published methods are oblivious to the characteristics of the putative RNA binding partner. Moreover, when evaluated using partner-agnostic metrics, RNA partner-specific methods are outperformed by the state-of-the-art partner-agnostic methods. We conjecture that either (a) the protein-RNA complexes in PDB are not representative of the protein-RNA interactions in nature, or (b) the current methods for partner-specific prediction of RNA-binding residues in proteins fail to account for the differences in RNA partner-specific versus partner-agnostic protein-RNA interactions, or both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-211
Number of pages14
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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