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Efficient procedures for the numerical simulation of mid-size RNA kinetics

Iddo Aviram, Ilia Veltman, Alexander Churkin and Danny Barash*

Author Affiliations

Department of Computer Science, Ben-Gurion University, 84105, Beer Sheva, Israel

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Algorithms for Molecular Biology 2012, 7:24  doi:10.1186/1748-7188-7-24

Published: 7 September 2012



Methods for simulating the kinetic folding of RNAs by numerically solving the chemical master equation have been developed since the late 90's, notably the programs Kinfold and Treekin with Barriers that are available in the Vienna RNA package. Our goal is to formulate extensions to the algorithms used, starting from the Gillespie algorithm, that will allow numerical simulations of mid-size (~ 60–150 nt) RNA kinetics in some practical cases where numerous distributions of folding times are desired. These extensions can contribute to analyses and predictions of RNA folding in biologically significant problems.


By describing in a particular way the reduction of numerical simulations of RNA folding kinetics into the Gillespie stochastic simulation algorithm for chemical reactions, it is possible to formulate extensions to the basic algorithm that will exploit memoization and parallelism for efficient computations. These can be used to advance forward from the small examples demonstrated to larger examples of biological interest.


The implementation that is described and used for the Gillespie algorithm is freely available by contacting the authors, noting that the efficient procedures suggested may also be applicable along with Vienna's Kinfold.