Posts Tagged ‘release’

Rfam release 14.8

May 30, 2022

We are happy to announce the release of Rfam version 14.8. This release includes 48 updated and 25 new microRNA families; 10 families updated based on 3D structure annotations; 4 new families and updates to 5 existing families for Hepatitis C virus; a new xRNAs family from the Potato virus; and the integration of LitScan, a literature scanner powered by RNAcentral and Europe PubMed Central. Read on for details on these changes.

Updated microRNA families

Rfam, miRBase and RNAcentral have been working to synchronize miRNA families between all three resources. We are now happy to report that we have completed 77% of the current miRNAs families covering >1300 miRNAs of 1700 alignments provided to us by Profesor Sam Griffiths-Jones at miRBase. The 400 remaining families need an extended review process, and we will be working on their integration in future releases.

Summary of the miRBase and Rfam synchronisation project, we estimate it is 78% completed.

Families updated with 3D structure information

Rfam has been updating families using 3D structure information. This project aims to improve Rfam families through the addition of pseudoknotes, base pairs, and annotations of other structural elements by inspecting 3D structures. In this release we have updated 10 families:

  • Virus families:
    • RF00507-Coronavirus frameshifting stimulation element
    • RF01047-HBV RNA encapsidation signal epsilon
  • Riboswitches families:
    • RF01763-Guanidine-III riboswitch, also know as ykkC-III riboswitch
    • RF01734-Fluoride riboswitch
    • RF01704-Glutamine-II riboswitch, previously known as Downstream peptide
    • RF01750-ZMP/ZTP riboswitch
    • RF01739-Glutamine riboswitch
    • RF02683-NiCo riboswitch
    • RF01826-SAM-V riboswitch
  • Ribozyme family:

We have added pseudoknots to 7 of the 10 updated families and the updated secondary structure diagrams from 5 of these families are shown below.

Examples of families reviewed and updated with 3D information. Pseudoknot structures (pk) were added to each of these five families based on a review of the corresponding 3D structures.

New and updated families of Hepatitis C virus

In release 14.8 we have created 4 new families, updated 5 existing families, and deleted 4 virus families. These changes are the result of our ongoing collaboration between Profesor Manja Marz of the European Virus Bioinformatics Center and Rfam. The Marz group provided Rfam a curated alignment of representative sequences for the entire genome of Hepatitis C virus genome. We used this alignment to update, create or remove existing Rfam families. The new families we have created are summarized in a table below. We have deleted RF00469, which was merged into RF00260 during review. We have also deleted families from RF02585 to RF02588 which have no support in the genomic alignment. 

Rfam IDNameDescription
RF00061IRES_HCVHepatitis C virus internal ribosome entry site
RF00260HepC_CREHepatitis C virus (HCV) cis-acting replication element (CRE)
RF00620HCV_ARF_SLHepatitis C alternative reading frame stem-loop
RF00468HCV_SLVIIHepatitis C virus stem-loop VII
RF00481HCV_X3Hepatitis C virus 3’X element
RF04218HCV_5BSL1Hepatitis C virus stem-loop I
RF04219HCV_J750J750 non-coding RNA (containing SL761 and SL783)
RF04220HCV_SL588SL588 non-coding RNA
RF04221HCV_SL669SL669 non-coding RNA

As part of this project we have reviewed and updated Coronavirus, Flavivirus and HCV viruses families, and we are working on adding RNA families from other viruses, such as Filoviridae (e.g. Ebolavirus) and Rhabdoviridae (e.g. Rabies viruses).

xRNAs in Potato virus

We want to thank Professor Quentin Vicens for sharing the alignment of Potato leafroll virus exoribonuclease-resistant RNA (PLRV-xrRNA). PLRV-xrRNA is a non-coding RNA that blocks the progression of 5′ to 3′ exoribonuclease using only a folded RNA element, and this family is described in RF04222.


RNAcentral has recently developed LitScan, a tool to automatically connect non-coding RNA sequences, genes and families to the literature that discusses them. In this release we have integrated the LitScan widget into Rfam. The widget is now shown in the new ‘Publications’ tab on all Rfam families.

Example of LitScan for mir-17 microRNA precursor family, publications can be sorted by citation, journal, year of publication and others.

Please reach out to us with feedback on the widget, or if you would like to use the LitScan widget on your site!

Dfam 3.6 release

April 21, 2022

We are pleased to announce the latest data release of the Dfam database! This latest release approximately doubles the number of species from the Dfam 3.5 release (595 to 1,109), and increases the number of transposable element (TE) families by ~2.5x (285,542 to 732,993. A more detailed summary of the species included can be seen in Table 1, and in the Dfam 3.6 release notes.

Community-submitted libraries

A huge thank you to the TE community for submitting your data to us! In this release, we have: 1) 3,360 curated rice weevil TE models, submitted by Clément Goubert and Rita Rebollo1; 2) 22 SINE families obtained from 15 moth species (Lepidoptera insects) submitted by Guangjie Han et al.2; 3) 120 Penelope-classified families – something about how they span several kingdoms/orders? submitted by Rory Craig et al.3; and 4) 41 repeat families generated as part of the T2T human assembly project4 – not including the 22 “composite” repetitive families, which will be available as part of a later Dfam release. To read more about the studies associated with these submissions, please see the references below.

Rice weevil: an agricultural pest

(Background copied from paper): The rice weevil Sitophilus oryzae is one of the most important agricultural pests, causing extensive damage to cereal in fields and to stored grains. S. oryzae has an intracellular symbiotic relationship (endosymbiosis) with the Gram-negative bacterium Sodalis pierantonius and is a valuable model to decipher host-symbiont molecular interactions. In the paper (see below), the authors show that many TE families are transcriptionally active, and changes in their expression are associated with insect endosymbiotic state.

Moth SINEs: high diversity

(Conclusions copied from paper): Lepidopteran insect genomes harbor a diversity of SINEs. The retrotransposition activity and copy number of these SINEs varies considerably between host lineages and SINE lineages. Host-parasite interactions facilitate the horizontal transfer of SINE between baculovirus and its lepidopteran hosts.

Penelope elements: far-reaching impacts

The authors investigate the Penelope (PLE) content of a wide variety of eukaryotes. (copied from paper): This paper uncovers the hitherto unknown PLE diversity, which spans all eukaryotic kingdoms, testifying to their ancient origins. 

T2T entries: previously hidden genomic content

A new human genome assembly has been released! The new assembly (T2T or chm13) has sequenced and assembled the remaining 10% of the human genome that was previously unattainable. The entries described in the manuscript are part of this newly-analyzed sequence.

EBI libraries

In collaboration the European Bioinformatic Institute (EBI), we processed and imported RepeatModeler runs on 444 additional species, resulting in the addition of 440,543 families. Additional extension and re-classification sites were run on each models and fate final consensus and HMMs were produced. Please note that the relationship data is not available on these uncreated imports at this time.

References associated with community submissions

1 Parisot, N., et al (2021). The transposable element-rich genome of the cereal pest Sitophilus oryzae. BMC biology19(1), 241.
2 Han, G., et al (2021). Diversity of short interspersed nuclear elements (SINEs) in lepidopteran insects and evidence of horizontal SINE transfer between baculovirus and lepidopteran hosts. BMC genomics22(1), 226.
3 Craig, R. J., et al (2021). An Ancient Clade of Penelope-Like Retroelements with Permuted Domains Is Present in the Green Lineage and Protists, and Dominates Many Invertebrate Genomes. Molecular biology and evolution38(11), 5005–5020.
4 Hoyt, S. J., et al (2022). From telomere to telomere: The transcriptional and epigenetic state of human repeat elements. Science (New York, N.Y.)376(6588), eabk3112.

Rfam release 14.7

December 21, 2021

We are happy to announce the latest Rfam release, version 14.7. The release includes 121 updated microRNA families, 4 new families, and a redesigned Rfam-PDB mapping pipeline that provides weekly updates as new RNA 3D structures become available. Read on to find out more or explore the data in Rfam.

Updated microRNA families

As part of the Rfam-miRBase synchronisation project discussed in the Rfam 14 paper, we continue revising microRNA families in Rfam using the data provided by miRBase. This release includes 121 updated families, such as mir-6 (RF00143) and mir-22 (RF00653). The following five microRNA families have been deleted from Rfam as the corresponding entries were removed from miRBase due to lack of evidence: mir-1937 (RF01942), mir-1280 (RF02013), mir-353 (RF00800), mir-720 (RF02002), and mir-2973 (RF02096). We would like to thank Lisanne Knol (University of Edinburgh) for bringing the first two of these families to our attention.

We estimate that the Rfam is now approximately 60% in sync with miRBase, with additional families to be released in future versions of Rfam. You can view the full list of updated families here or browse all microRNAs in Rfam

New families

The release includes two new hairpin ribozyme families Hairpin-meta1 (RF04190) and Hairpin-meta2 (RF04191) recently reported by the Weinberg lab. The hairpin ribozymes were discovered in metatranscriptome data and are proposed to occur in circular RNA genomes of as yet uncharacterised organisms. The new family joins the original Hairpin ribozyme family (RF00173).

Based on a recent paper we also created two additional bacterial families, the icd-II ncRNA motif (RF04189) and the carA ncRNA motif (RF04192). We would like to thank Ken Brewer (Yale University) for providing the data.

Weekly updates of PDB structures matching Rfam families

For many years Rfam maintained a mapping between Rfam families and experimentally determined RNA 3D structures available in PDB. However, this mapping lagged behind the weekly PDB updates as it was only updated with Rfam releases. 

The newly implemented pipeline analyses the data every week and makes the data available on the Rfam website and in a new section of the FTP archive that contains a preview of the upcoming release. The new, up-to-date mapping also improves the ability to search PDBe using Rfam and is a key part of an ongoing project to review all Rfam families with known 3D structures. 

Currently there are 127 Rfam families with experimentally determined RNA 3D structures in the PDB. For example, a recent paper describing how a viral RNA hijacks host machinery produced several structural models (7SAM, 7SC6, and 7SCQ) showing the pseudoknot of tRNA-like structure that are now mapped to Rfam family RF01084. Follow Rfam on Twitter to be the first to hear when new RNA families are linked to 3D structures.

Other improvements

  • We continue improving the Gene Ontology (GO) terms associated with Rfam families, and in this release 412 families have been updated to use the latest GO terms. Maintaining the GO terms up-to-date is important as Rfam is used for automatic assignment of GO terms in RNAcentral and other resources. The GO terms are shown in the Curation tab of each family and are also available in the rfam2go file. 
  • The Rfam.seed_tree.tar.gz file hosted on the FTP archive has been fixed. We would like to thank Christian Anthon (University of Copenhagen) for reporting the problem.

Get in touch

As always, we look forward to hearing from you if you have any feedback or suggestions for Rfam. Please feel free to email us or get in touch on Twitter.

Happy holidays from the Rfam team!

This is the first release produced by Emma Cooke and Blake Sweeney who have joined Rfam in the second half of 2021. The Rfam team wishes you a happy holiday season! We look forward to creating lots more families in 2022 and working towards the next major Rfam release, Rfam 15.0!

Dfam 3.5 release

October 11, 2021

We are pleased to announce the the Dfam 3.5 release, which includes both new annotation data (available for download) and additional TE (transposable element) models and species.

TE annotation data

As part of this release, we have added annotation data for the curated TE entries for all of the extant species as part of the Zoonomia project (Figure 1). These data were curated by the combined work of David Ray’s lab at Texas Tech University (TTU) as well as the Smit group at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), and include young, lineage-specific TE models.

Figure 1: Example of the genomic annotation for a Dfam TE model.

TE models

271 Lineage-specific, curated LTR TE models for the reconstructed ancestor of New World monkeys as part of the Zoonomia project have also been added.Additional uncurated entries (DR records) have also been added for the duckweed (607 models) and Atlantic cod (2751 models) as part of TE families submitted to Dfam via the website interface. The next Dfam release will include additional submitted datasets. With the addition of these new families, Dfam now houses 285,542 TE models across 595 species (Figure 2; Figure 3). We look forward to the continued growth of Dfam!

Figure 2: Dfam model growth. Numbers above each bar indicate the number of total models in Dfam at the time of the indicated release.
Figure 3: Dfam species growth. Numbers above each bar indicates the number of total species in Dfam at the time of the indicated release.

Rfam 14.6 is out

July 27, 2021

We are happy to announce a new release of Rfam (14.6) that includes 121 new microRNA families, a new ribozyme family, 8 new small RNA families found in Bacteroides, as well as 10 additional families with updated secondary structures using 3D structural information. Read on for more information or explore the data in Rfam.

New microRNA families

The new release includes 121 new microRNA families bringing the total number of microRNA families in Rfam to 1,506. This work is part of the ongoing collaboration with miRBase that aims to synchronise microRNAs across miRBase, Rfam, and RNAcentral. Browse Rfam microRNAs or find out more about the microRNA project.

We also resolved an issue with 6 microRNA families that were missing a covariance model on the website and in the FTP archive. Many thanks to Dr Christian Anthon (University of Copenhagen) for pointing out this problem!

Updating families using information from 3D structures

Following on from Rfam 14.5, we updated the secondary structure of 10 additional families with 3D information, including 6 riboswitches, 1 ribozyme, 1 telomerase, 1 localization element and 1 microRNA precursor.

In some families, the updated structure is substantially changed. For example, the central part of the flavin mononucleotide (FMN) riboswitch is now organised by several additional base pairs and two pseudoknots (pK). As a result, the updated structure is more compact and more accurately reflects the experimentally determined 3D structures.

Seven of the updated families include newly annotated pseudoknots, which is an important improvement that helps better model long-distance non-nested interactions. We will continue reviewing and updating the families with 3D structure in future releases. The full list of the updated families can be found in the table below.

FamilyPDB structuresNew  pK
RF00008 – Hammerhead ribozyme (type III)2QUS_A, 2QUS_B, 2QUW_A, 2QUW_B, 2QUW_C, 2QUW_D, 5DI2_A, 5DI4_A, 5DQK_A, 5EAO_A, 5EAQ_A1
RF00025 – Ciliate telomerase RNA6D6V2
RF00050 – FMN riboswitch (RFN element)3F2Q, 3F2T, 3F2W, 3F2X, 3F2Y, 3F3O 2
RF00059 – TPP riboswitch (THI element)2CKY_A, 2CKY_B, 2GDI_X, 2GDI_Y, 2HOJ_A, 2HOK_A, 2HOL_A, 2HOM_A, 2HOO_A, 2HOP_A, 3D2G_A, 3D2G_B, 3D2V_A, 3D2V_B, 3D2X_A, 3D2X_B, 3K0J_E, 3K0J_F, 4NYA_A, 4NYA_B, 4NYB_A, 4NYC_A, 4NYD_A, 4NYG_A
RF00207 – K10 transport/localisation element (TLS)2KE6, 2KUR, 2KUU, 2KU, 2KUW
RF00174 – Cobalamin riboswitch4GMA, 4GXY1
RF00380 – ykoK leader / M-box riboswitch2QBZ_X, 3PDR_X, 3PDR_A1
RF01689 – AdoCbl variant RNA4FRN_A, 4FRN_B, 4FRG_X, 4FRG_B1
RF01831 – THF riboswitch3SD3, 3SUH, 3SUX, 3SUY, 4LVV, 4LVW, 4LVX, 4LVY, 4LVZ, 4LW01
RF02095 – mir-2985-2 microRNA precursor2L3J

Hovlinc ribozyme

A recent paper by Chen Y et al. 2021 describes Hovlinc, a new type of self-cleaving ribozymes found in human and other hominids. Hovlinc was detected in a very long intergenic noncoding RNA in hominids (hominin vlincRNA-located) using a genome-wide approach designed to discover self-cleaving ribozymes. The functions of vlincRNA and the hovlinc ribozyme remain unclear. Hovlinc joins 3 known classes of small, self cleaving ribozymes found in human: (1) Mammalian CPEB3 ribozyme, (2) Hammerhead ribozyme and (3) B2 and ALU retrotransposons. We would like to thank Dr Fei Qi (Huaqiao University) for providing the Hovlinc alignment. View hovlinc family in Rfam.

New Bacteroides families

In a recent article by Ryan et al. 2020, the authors report a high-resolution transcriptome map of the model organism Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a common bacteria of the human gut. They recognize 269 non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) candidates from which nine were validated. Eight of these ncRNAs were integrated as new families:

  1. RF04177 – Bacteroides sRNA BTnc201
  2. RF04178 – Bacteroides sRNA BTnc005
  3. RF04179 – Bacteroides sRNA BTnc049
  4. RF04180 – Bacteroides sRNA BTnc231
  5. RF04181 – rteR sRNA
  6. RF04182 – GibS sRNA
  7. RF04183 – Bacteroidales small SRP
  8. RF04184 – Bacteroides sRNA BTnc060

In addition, the RF01693 – Bacteroidales-1 family was renamed to 6S-Bacteroidales RNA. Bacteroidales-1 was first reported in a comparative genomics-based approach of genome and metagenome sequences from Weinberg et al. 2010. It was identified downstream of L20 ribosomal subunit genes in the order Bacteroidales. Ryan et al. 2020 report that this sRNA is a 6S RNA homolog in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. Rfam also has other two families of 6S RNA RF00013-6S/SsrS RNA and RF01685-6S-Flavo. We would like to thank Dr Lars Barquist (University of Würzburg) for providing the data.

Welcome to Emma!

A few weeks ago Emma Cooke joined the Rfam team as Software Developer and is already busy working on new features. Emma has studied Genetics and Software Engineering, and her previous roles have focused on release verification pipelines, software testing, and developing for cloud environments. Please join us in welcoming Emma to the Rfam community and stay tuned for new announcements based on her work.

Get in touch

As always, we would be very happy to hear from you if you have any feedback or suggestions for Rfam. Please feel free to email us or get in touch on Twitter.

Dfam 3.2 Release

July 9, 2020

Dfam is proud to announce the release of Dfam 3.2.  This release represents a significant step in the expansion of Dfam by providing early access to uncurated, de novo generated families.  As a demonstration of this new capability, we imported a set of 336 RepeatModeler generated libraries produced by Fergal Martin and Denye Ogeh at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI).  Also in this release, Dfam now provides family alignments to the RepeatMasker TE protein database aiding in the discovery of related families and in the classification of uncurated TEs.

Uncurated Family Support

In addition to the fully curated libraries for the model organisms human, mouse, zebrafish, worm and fly, Dfam also includes curated libraries for seven other species.  While a fully curated library is the ultimate goal, support for uncurated families has become an essential aspect of a TE resource due to the increasing rate at which new species are being sequenced and the need to have at least a simple TE masking library available.

By standardizing the storage and tracking of uncurated families, it becomes possible to use these datasets to crudely mask an assembly, provide a first approximation of the TE content, and create a starting point for community curation efforts.  Due to the redundancy and fragmentation inherent in these datasets, we do not compute genome-specific thresholds or generate genome coverage plots for these families.  The latest update to the web portal includes new interfaces for uncurated families and some existing interfaces now include an option to include/omit uncurated families.

In this release, Dfam now contains RepeatModeler de novo-produced libraries for an additional 336 species as the result of the collaboration with EBI researchers (denoted with the new uncurated accession prefix “DR”).  Notable taxa expansions include sauropsida (lizards and birds) and fishes (bony and cartilaginous) (Table1). Also included are Amphibia, Viridiplantae and additional species in Mammalia. 

Table 1. De novo-identified TE families from additional species

SpeciesNumber (species)RetrotransposonsDNA transposonsOther
Actinopterygii (bony fishes)116275205136177006
Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fishes)516711982273
Viridiplantae (green plants)28964121687

Aligned Protein Features

In previous versions of Dfam, hand-curated coding regions were provided for a select set of families.  The protein products of these curated sequences were placed in the RepeatMasker TE protein database for use with the RepeatProteinMask tool.  In this release we have used this database with BLASTX to produce alignments to all Dfam families including the uncurated entries.  The resulting alignments are displayed alongside the curated coding regions as the new “aligned” feature track (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Feature track and details for BLASTX alignments to TE protein database.

Website improvements

Several minor improvements have been made to the interface since the previous release.  The browse page now provides links to download the families selected by the query/filter options as HMM, EMBL or FASTA records.  The Seed tab of the Families page now displays the average Kimura divergence of the seed alignment instances to the consensus.

Pfam 33.1 is released

June 11, 2020

We are pleased to announce the release of Pfam 33.1! Some of you may have noticed that we never released Pfam 33.0 – we had initially planned to do so in March 2020, but due to the global pandemic, we redirected our efforts to updating the Pfam SARS-CoV-2 models instead (see previous blog posts Pfam SARS-CoV-2 special update and Pfam SARS-CoV-2 special update (part 2)). We have added these updated models to the Pfam 33.0 release, along with a few other families that we had built since the data for Pfam 33.0 were frozen, to create Pfam 33.1.

Pfam 33.1 contains a total of 18259 families and 635 clans. Since the last release, we have built 355 new families and killed 25 families. We regularly receive feedback from users about families or domains that are missing in Pfam, and typically add many user submitted families at each release. We include the submitters name and ORCID identifier as an author of such Pfam entries. This helps people to get credit for community activities that improve molecular biology databases such as Pfam.

One such user submission was from Heli Mönttinen (University of Helsinki) who submitted a large scale clustering of virus families. Based on this clustering we added 88 new families to Pfam. 

Figure 1. Organisation of the TSP1 clan in Pfam shown as a sequence similarity network. Image taken from Xu et al.

Finally, we are very happy to welcome Sara and Lowri who are working as curators for both the Pfam and InterPro resources and are already making great contributions to the resources.

Posted by Jaina and Alex

Pfam SARS-CoV-2 special update (part 2)

April 6, 2020

This post presents an update to last week’s post. Since the initial release of the 40 Pfam profile HMMs that match SARS-CoV-2, we have now produced a set of flatfiles that are more typical of a Pfam release.  These files make our updated annotations that describe the entries available for download, prior to being released via the Pfam website. Moreover, you can now use the multiple sequence alignments to investigate the conserved positions across different coronavirus proteins. Figure 1 shows the alignment of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (PF09408 N.B. the Pfam website still shows the old alignment).


Figure 1 – Excerpt of the Betacoronavirus spike glycoprotein S1, receptor binding domain alignment (Pfam accession PF09408), rendered using Jalview. The SARS-CoV-2 sequence is the last sequence in the alignment.

Finally, we have made some very minor changes to the family descriptions and one name change from the last release.  You can now access all the updated files here:

In this directory you can find the updated seed (Pfam-A.SARS-CoV-2.seed) and full alignments (Pfam-A.SARS-CoV-2.full) in Stockholm format based on the Pfamseq database, which contains sequences of the UniProt Reference Proteomes.  We provide a file with matches to UniProtKB 2019_08 (Pfam-A.SARS-CoV-2.full.uniprot). We also provide a set of alignments for each of the families which include matches to the SARS-CoV-2 sequences which are not as yet present in the Pfamseq database. These alignments can be found in aligned fasta format here or as a tar gzipped library here.

Posted by The Pfam team

Pfam SARS-CoV-2 special update

April 2, 2020

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has mobilised a worldwide research effort to understand the pathogen itself and the mechanism of COVID-19 disease, as well as to identify treatment options. Although Pfam already provided useful annotation for SARS-CoV-2, we decided to update our models and annotations for this virus in an effort to help the research community. This post explains what was done and how we are making the data available as quickly as possible.

What have we done?

We assessed all the protein sequences provided by UniProt via its new COVID-19 portal (, identified those which lacked an existing Pfam model, and set about building models as required. In some cases we built families based on recently solved structures of SARS-CoV-2 proteins. For example, we built three new families representing the three structural domains of the NSP15 protein (Figure 1) based on the structure by Youngchang Kim and colleagues ( In other cases, such as Pfam’s RNA dependent RNA polymerase family (PF00680), we took our existing family and extended its taxonomic range to ensure it included the new SARS-CoV-2 sequences.

Figure 1. The structure of NSP15 (PDB:6VWW) from Kim et al. shows the three new Pfam domains. (1) CoV_NSP15_N (PF19219) Coronavirus replicase NSP15, N-terminal oligomerisation domain in red, (2) CoV_NSP15_M (PF19216) Coronavirus replicase NSP15, middle domain in blue and (3) CoV_NSP15_C (PF19215) Coronavirus replicase NSP15, uridylate-specific endoribonuclease in green.

We have also stratified our ID nomenclature and descriptions of the families to ensure they are both correct and consistent. The majority of the family identifiers now begin with either CoV, for coronavirus specific families, or bCoV for the families which are specific to the betacoronavirus clade, which SARS-CoV-2 belongs to. We have also fixed inconsistencies in the naming and descriptions of the various non-structural proteins, using NSPx for those proteins encoded by the replicase polyprotein, and NSx for those encoded by other ORFs. We are grateful to Philippe Le Mercier from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics who gave us valuable guidance for our nomenclature.

Where are the data?

You can access a small HMM library (Pfam-A.SARS-CoV-2.hmm) for all the Pfam families that match the SARS-CoV-2 protein sequences on the Pfam FTP site:

You can also find a file (matches.scan) showing the matches of the models against the SARS-CoV-2 sequences in the same FTP location. These updates are not yet available on the Pfam website. We anticipate making them available in 6-8 weeks.  We hope you find our SARS-CoV-2 models useful for your research, and as always we welcome your feedback via email at

How to use this library?

This library is not compatible with the pfam_scan software that we normally recommend to reproduce Pfam matches, as this library only contains a small subset of models.  If you wish to compare these models to your own sequences, please use the following HMMER commands:

$ hmmpress  Pfam-A.SARS-CoV-2.hmm

This only needs to be performed once. Then to compare your sequences (in a file called my.fasta) to this special Pfam profile HMM library, then:

$ hmmscan --cut_ga --domtblout matches.scan Pfam-A.SARS-CoV-2.hmm my.fasta

The –domtblout option enables you to save the matches in a more convenient tabular form, if you do not want to parse the HMMER output.

And finally

We will be making Pfam alignments available during the next week and will produce another blog post describing them.

Posted by The Pfam team

Rfam 14.0 is out with over 100 new families and an expanded genome collection

August 8, 2018


We are happy to announce that the new release of Rfam, version 14.0, is now available! Rfam 14.0 is built using a set of over 14,000 non-redundant, representative, and complete genomes (~60% more than in Rfam 13.0). It includes 105 new families, new genome browser hub, and ORCiD integration. Read on to find out more.

What’s new

Data updates

Rfam 14.0 has 60% more genomes than Rfam 13.0

The latest Rfam version comes on the heels of Rfam 13.0, a release that marked the transition to the genome-centric sequence database. In Rfam 13.0, the Rfam sequence database – Rfamseq – was composed of 8,364 non-redundant, representative and complete genomes derived from a genome collection maintained by UniProt. Now with the addition of 6,519 new species, the number of annotated genomes in Rfam 14.0 increased by ~60% to 14,434 genomes.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 3.17.20 PM

The majority of the genomes from Rfam 13.0 are also present in Rfam 14.0, although a small number (385, ~4.6%) was removed or replaced. The majority of the new genomes come from Bacteria and Viruses.

Since Rfamseq was updated, this is a major Rfam release (14.0). Expect a minor release (14.1) in the Fall 2018 with new RNA families but no changes in Rfamseq.

More genomes, less redundancy

The switch to annotating complete genomes enabled us to resolve data redundancy at the levels of sequence and species. For instance, in Rfam 12.3 the cumulative length of all human sequences was eight times longer than the total length of the human genome assembly hg38 in 13.0 (note how the width of the green line of Rfam 12 narrows in Rfam 13).

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 3.17.45 PM

Redundancy reduction at species level relies on Uniprot’s reference proteome collection, which is a result of manual curation and computational refinement. It includes species of high interest to the scientific community and well-studied model organisms, carefully selected in such a way that they represent the taxonomic diversity. Rfam uses the same collection of genomes for annotation with existing RNA families and building new ones.

105 new families

The number of RNA families reached 2,791 with the addition of 105 new families from 8 RNA types. The new families per ncRNA type in release 14.0 is shown below:

  • 65   Gene; sRNA;
  • 17   Gene; antisense;
  • 11   Gene; snRNA; snoRNA; HACA-box;
  • 5     Gene; snRNA; snoRNA; CD-box;
  • 4     Cis-reg; thermoregulator;
  • 1     Cis-reg;
  • 1     Cis-reg; leader;
  • 1     Cis-reg; riboswitch;

Browse 105 new families

New 3D structures matching Rfam families

2 more Rfam families now have experimentally determined 3D structures that did not match any 3D structures in the past:

Rfam family PDB structure
RF00382 DnaX ribosomal frameshifting element 5UQ7, 5UQ8 – 70S ribosome complex with dnaX mRNA stemloop and E-site tRNA (“in” and “out” conformation)
RF00375 HIV primer binding site 6B19 – Architecture of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase initiation complex core

Search for Rfam entries in PDBe

Rfam regularly updates the mapping between Rfam families and the experimentally determined 3D structures available in PDB. With PDBe’s Advanced Search release in May 2018, PDBe users can take advantage of these mapping by searching with Rfam family names or accessions. For instance, a search using tRNA accession RF00005 currently retrieves 502 entries.

Another powerful new feature is the interactive 3D visualization of the Rfam domains on PDBe entry pages using LiteMol. This is achieved by highlighting the RNA sequence on the corresponding structure, for example tRNA (RF00005) in structure 4UJD. Additional information can be found in the PDBe blog post.

Increased GO term coverage

Non-coding RNA functional annotation was improved with the addition of 133 GO terms to 81 families since last release. The GO annotations are propagated to RNAcentral sequences and submitted to the GOA system, as described in GOREF:0000115.

Genome browser hub

The genome-centric sequence database enabled us to generate the genome browser track hub directly out of the genome annotations without an additional mapping step. At this time we limited the species listed in track hub to those supported by UCSC, with the potential of that number to grow by incorporating all genomes with assemblies at chromosome level. Currently there are 14 species including human (hg38), chicken (galGal5), pig (susScr11) and mouse (mm10). Upon user request, we will also be happy to provide .bed and .bigBed files for various other genomes in our collection, depending on the level of the assembly.

Explore Rfam annotations in UCSC Genome Browser by clicking on these links:

or configure the track manually by editing the URL:

The track hub can also be attached to Ensembl using these instructions and the following URL:

Get credit for Rfam families using ORCiD

It is now possible for Rfam authors to get credit for their contributions by claiming family accessions directly to their ORCiD profiles. This new feature was enabled by the Claim to Orcid functionality provided by EBI Search. The process includes three simple steps. Users are first required to login to their ORCiD accounts and use their ORCiD id to search for associated entries. Following search, one can manually select all or a subset of listed entries and click on Claim to ORCID button located at the top of the page. The example provided is of a snoRNA family (RF02725) claimed by the Rfam curator Joanna Argasinska directly to her ORCiD profile.   

New Rfam paper

rfam-cpb-paperWe recently published a new paper in Current Protocols in Bioinformatics with examples covering a broad spectrum of Rfam use cases including examples using our website as well as Infernal to annotate nucleotide sequences. There is also a section dedicated to MySQL with tips and tricks on restoring previous versions of the database, along with useful examples on forming complex queries.

Get in touch

Follow our new Twitter account RfamDB to be the first to find out about new Rfam families and don’t hesitate to raise a GitHub issue or email us if you have any questions.

You can also meet the Rfam team in person at a hands-on tutorial at the upcoming ECCB 2018 conference in Athens.