Leslie Grate, Mark Herbster, Richard Hughey, David Haussler, I. Saira Mian, and Harry Noller
A new method of discovering the common secondary structure of a family of homologous RNA sequences using Gibbs sampling and stochastic context-free grammars is proposed. Given an unaligned set of sequences, a Gibbs sampling step simultaneously estimates the secondary structure of each sequence and a set of statistical parameters describing the common secondary structure of the set as a whole. These parameters describe a statistical model of the family. After the Gibbs sampling has produced a crude statistical model for the family, this model is translated into a stochastic context-free grammar, which is then refined by an Expectation Maximization (EM) procedure to produce a more complete model. A prototype implementation of the method is tested on tRNA, pieces of 16S rRNA and on U5 snRNA with good results.