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      Evaluation of sequence alignments and oligonucleotide probes with respect to three-dimensional structure of ribosomal RNA using ARB software package

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          Availability of high-resolution RNA crystal structures for the 30S and 50S ribosomal subunits and the subsequent validation of comparative secondary structure models have prompted the biologists to use three-dimensional structure of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) for evaluating sequence alignments of rRNA genes. Furthermore, the secondary and tertiary structural features of rRNA are highly useful and successfully employed in designing rRNA targeted oligonucleotide probes intended for in situ hybridization experiments. RNA3D, a program to combine sequence alignment information with three-dimensional structure of rRNA was developed. Integration into ARB software package, which is used extensively by the scientific community for phylogenetic analysis and molecular probe designing, has substantially extended the functionality of ARB software suite with 3D environment.


          Three-dimensional structure of rRNA is visualized in OpenGL 3D environment with the abilities to change the display and overlay information onto the molecule, dynamically. Phylogenetic information derived from the multiple sequence alignments can be overlaid onto the molecule structure in a real time. Superimposition of both statistical and non-statistical sequence associated information onto the rRNA 3D structure can be done using customizable color scheme, which is also applied to a textual sequence alignment for reference. Oligonucleotide probes designed by ARB probe design tools can be mapped onto the 3D structure along with the probe accessibility models for evaluation with respect to secondary and tertiary structural conformations of rRNA.


          Visualization of three-dimensional structure of rRNA in an intuitive display provides the biologists with the greater possibilities to carry out structure based phylogenetic analysis. Coupled with secondary structure models of rRNA, RNA3D program aids in validating the sequence alignments of rRNA genes and evaluating probe target sites. Superimposition of the information derived from the multiple sequence alignment onto the molecule dynamically allows the researchers to observe any sequence inherited characteristics (phylogenetic information) in real-time environment. The extended ARB software package is made freely available for the scientific community via

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          Most cited references 31

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          The Protein Data Bank.

          The Protein Data Bank (PDB; ) is the single worldwide archive of structural data of biological macromolecules. This paper describes the goals of the PDB, the systems in place for data deposition and access, how to obtain further information, and near-term plans for the future development of the resource.
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            ARB: a software environment for sequence data.

            The ARB (from Latin arbor, tree) project was initiated almost 10 years ago. The ARB program package comprises a variety of directly interacting software tools for sequence database maintenance and analysis which are controlled by a common graphical user interface. Although it was initially designed for ribosomal RNA data, it can be used for any nucleic and amino acid sequence data as well. A central database contains processed (aligned) primary structure data. Any additional descriptive data can be stored in database fields assigned to the individual sequences or linked via local or worldwide networks. A phylogenetic tree visualized in the main window can be used for data access and visualization. The package comprises additional tools for data import and export, sequence alignment, primary and secondary structure editing, profile and filter calculation, phylogenetic analyses, specific hybridization probe design and evaluation and other components for data analysis. Currently, the package is used by numerous working groups worldwide.
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              Phylogenetic identification and in situ detection of individual microbial cells without cultivation.

              The frequent discrepancy between direct microscopic counts and numbers of culturable bacteria from environmental samples is just one of several indications that we currently know only a minor part of the diversity of microorganisms in nature. A combination of direct retrieval of rRNA sequences and whole-cell oligonucleotide probing can be used to detect specific rRNA sequences of uncultured bacteria in natural samples and to microscopically identify individual cells. Studies have been performed with microbial assemblages of various complexities ranging from simple two-component bacterial endosymbiotic associations to multispecies enrichments containing magnetotactic bacteria to highly complex marine and soil communities. Phylogenetic analysis of the retrieved rRNA sequence of an uncultured microorganism reveals its closest culturable relatives and may, together with information on the physicochemical conditions of its natural habitat, facilitate more directed cultivation attempts. For the analysis of complex communities such as multispecies biofilms and activated-sludge flocs, a different approach has proven advantageous. Sets of probes specific to different taxonomic levels are applied consecutively beginning with the more general and ending with the more specific (a hierarchical top-to-bottom approach), thereby generating increasingly precise information on the structure of the community. Not only do rRNA-targeted whole-cell hybridizations yield data on cell morphology, specific cell counts, and in situ distributions of defined phylogenetic groups, but also the strength of the hybridization signal reflects the cellular rRNA content of individual cells. From the signal strength conferred by a specific probe, in situ growth rates and activities of individual cells might be estimated for known species. In many ecosystems, low cellular rRNA content and/or limited cell permeability, combined with background fluorescence, hinders in situ identification of autochthonous populations. Approaches to circumvent these problems are discussed in detail.

                Author and article information

                BMC Bioinformatics
                BMC Bioinformatics
                BioMed Central (London )
                4 May 2006
                : 7
                : 240
                [1 ]Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Technische Universität München, D-85350 Freising, Germany
                [2 ]Lehrstuhl für Computer Graphik und Visualisierung, Technische Universität München, D-85748 Garching, Germany
                [3 ]Lehrstuhl für Rechnertechnik und Rechnerorganisation, Technische Universität München, D-85748 Garching, Germany
                Copyright © 2006 Kumar et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


                Bioinformatics & Computational biology


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