RNA secondary structures play several important functions in the human immunodeficiency computer virus (HIV) life cycle. base-pairing regions displayed markedly reduced synonymous variation (approximately threefold lower than average) in a data set of 20,000 HIV-1 subtype B sequences from clinical samples. Third, impartial analysis of covariation between synonymous mutations in this data set recognized 10 covariant mutation pairs forming two diagonals that corresponded exactly to Mouse monoclonal to PRKDC the sites predicted to base-pair in stems A and B. Finally, this structure was validated experimentally using selective 2-hydroxyl acylation and primer extension (SHAPE). Discovery of this novel secondary structure suggests many directions for further functional investigation. gene, RNA secondary structure, thermodynamic prediction, covariation, synonymous variability, SHAPE INTRODUCTION HIV is the causative agent of AIDS, now a worldwide epidemic. One serious problem for the treatment of AIDS is HIV’s ability to rapidly develop resistance to anti-retroviral drugs. The majority of FDA-approved anti-HIV drugs target the protease and the reverse transcriptase in the HIV gene (Simon et al. 2006). In order to better understand the development of drug resistance, it may be important to understand the structure and function not only of the protease and reverse transcriptase proteins, but also of the gene itself, such as possible RNA secondary structures, since these could impact its function. A number of RNA secondary structures have been identified in different parts of the HIV genome (Paillart et al. 2002; Abbink and Berkhout 2003; Damgaard et al. 2004; Hofacker et al. 2004; Ooms et al. 2007). There are some well-studied examples, such as the gene (Malim et al. 1989), and the frame-shift hairpin (Parkin et al. 1992). They all have been found to play important functions in HIV transcription. In addition, it has been reported that an RNA secondary structure in the gene facilitated recombination, creating a recombination hot Danshensu spot in HIV (Moumen et al. 2001; Galetto et al. 2004). All these studies suggest that RNA secondary structure in HIV plays important functions Danshensu in the viral life cycle. One study has suggested a relationship between RNA secondary structure and drug resistance mutations in HIV (Schinazi et al. 1994). Thus, one important goal is the total identification of all RNA secondary structures in HIV, particularly in regions involved in drug resistance. This requires several different kinds of analysis. Energy-based RNA folding prediction programs can give useful predictions of likely structures, but are not in and of themselves adequate evidence for a specific structure. Comparative genomic methods provide a variety of ways to test such predictions (Mathews and Turner 2006). First, comparison of many related sequences can evaluate whether regions made up of predicted secondary structures are more strongly conserved than neighboring regions. Furthermore, by focusing such analysis on synonymous sites, it is possible to distinguish whether conservation is due to selection pressure on the amino Danshensu acid sequence (i.e., protein function) or around the RNA sequence itself Danshensu (consistent with a functionally important RNA secondary structure). Second, comparative genomics can evaluate whether the predicted secondary structure is conserved over a broader evolutionary clade. Finally, if sufficient data are available, mutation covariance analysis can directly indicate pairs of nucleotides that appear Danshensu to be base-paired by identifying compensatory mutations. All of these approaches depend on having enough sequences to obtain statistically significant results. The combination of energy-based folding and comparative genomic approaches has successfully detected RNA secondary structures in HIV. Hofacker et al. (1998) correctly identified the two well-known secondary structures TAR and RRE via a combination of thermodynamic structure prediction with phylogenetic comparison of as few as 13 full genomic sequences. The emergence of larger HIV sequence data sets provides a useful opportunity to take greater advantage of comparative genomics to identify all RNA secondary structures in HIV. Peleg et al. (2002) applied a combination of secondary structure prediction and the conservation assessment method to.