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Deep learning predicts short non-coding RNA functions from only raw sequence data.

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Noviello, Teresa Maria Rosaria  ORCID logo
Ceccarelli, Francesco  ORCID logo
Ceccarelli, Michele  ORCID logo


Small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are short non-coding sequences involved in gene regulation in many biological processes and diseases. The lack of a complete comprehension of their biological functionality, especially in a genome-wide scenario, has demanded new computational approaches to annotate their roles. It is widely known that secondary structure is determinant to know RNA function and machine learning based approaches have been successfully proven to predict RNA function from secondary structure information. Here we show that RNA function can be predicted with good accuracy from a lightweight representation of sequence information without the necessity of computing secondary structure features which is computationally expensive. This finding appears to go against the dogma of secondary structure being a key determinant of function in RNA. Compared to recent secondary structure based methods, the proposed solution is more robust to sequence boundary noise and reduces drastically the computational cost allowing for large data volume annotations. Scripts and datasets to reproduce the results of experiments proposed in this study are available at:



Computational Biology, Databases, Nucleic Acid, Deep Learning, High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing, Humans, Monte Carlo Method, Neural Networks, Computer, Nucleic Acid Conformation, RNA, Untranslated, Sequence Analysis, RNA, Exome Sequencing

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PLoS Comput Biol

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (IT) (21846)
Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (2017XJ38A4-004)
Regione Campania (GENOMAeSALUTE)