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RNA secondary structures: from ab initio prediction to better compression, and back

Mar 2023 (Written: Nov 2022)

Eva Onokpasa, Sebastian Wild, and Prudence Wong:

Data Compression Conference (DCC) 2023

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In this paper, we use the biological domain knowledge incorporated into stochastic models for ab initio RNA secondary-structure prediction to improve the state of the art in joint compression of RNA sequence and structure data (Liu et al., BMC Bioinformatics, 2008). Moreover, we show how, conversely, that compression ratio can serve as a cheap and robust proxy for comparing the prediction quality of different stochastic models, which may help guide the search for better RNA structure prediction models.

Our results build on expert stochastic context-free grammar models of RNA secondary structures (Dowell & Eddy, BMC Bioinformatics, 2004; Nebel & Scheid, Theory in Biosciences, 2011) combined with different (static and adaptive) models for rule probabilities and arithmetic coding. We provide a prototype implementation and an extensive empirical evaluation, where we illustrate how grammar features and probability models affect compression ratios.

Data and figures are available on Google Colab.