Posts Tagged ‘RNA’

Rfam 12.3 is out

June 29, 2017


The new Rfam release (version 12.3) features 101 new families, unified search, and updated documentation.

New families

Rfam 12.3 featured families

In this release 101 new families were added to the database, including over a dozen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis RNA thermometers from a recent PNAS paper by Righetti et al. We would like to thank Zasha Weinberg for contributing NiCo riboswitch, Type-P5 Twister, and several RAGATH RNAs (for example, RAGATH-5). You can browse the new families here.

Unified text search

Rfam text search

Over the years Rfam developed many specialised ways of searching and exploring the data, such as Keyword search, Taxonomy search, browsing entries by type, and “Jump To” navigation. While these options work well, they may be confusing for new users, so we set out to unify all search functionality in a single text search.

The new search is available on the Rfam homepage or at the top of any Rfam page and is powered by EBI search. It allows to browse RNA families, clans, motifs, or explore Rfam by category using facets. For example, one can view families with 3D structures or view all snoRNA families that match human sequences, and the URLs can be bookmarked or shared.

The new search is a full replacement for the old search functionality except for taxonomy, because the new search can find species but not higher-level taxa. For example, one can search for Homo sapiens but not for Mammals. Stay tuned for future updates and use the old Taxonomy search in the meantime. We plan to retire all old search functionality once the new search is fully developed but until then the old and the new searches will coexist.

For more information about the new search, see Rfam documentation. If you have any feedback, please let us know in the comments below, on GitHub, by email, or on Twitter.

New home for Rfam documentation

Rfam help has been migrated to a dedicated documentation hosting platform ReadTheDocs and is now available at

Rfam ReadTheDocs help

The new system offers several advantages:

The source code of the documentation is available on GitHub so if you notice a problem you can let us know by creating an issue or help us fix it by editing the text on GitHub and sending a pull request.

Other updates

  • Clan competition for PDB entries: Now the 3D structure tab, the public MySQL database, and the FTP archive show only the lowest E-value match when several RNA families from the same clan match a PDB chain. For example, chain 0 of PDB structure 1S72 (LSU rRNA from an Archaeon Haloarcula marismortui) now matches only the Archaeal LSU family instead of all families from rRNA LSU clan.
  • New 5S rRNA clan CL00113 that includes 5S rRNA and mtPerm-5S families.

What’s next

This release will be the last “point release” for Rfam 12. In the next few months we will release Rfam 13.0 which will be based on a new sequence database. Previously, Rfam annotated WGS and STD subsets of ENA, which grow very quickly and include many redundant sequences. We will take advantage of reference genomes from UniProt reference proteome collection which is a regularly updated, reduced-redundancy set of reference genomes. This allows us to perform meaningful taxonomic comparisons and explore RNA families by taxonomy without sifting through thousands of versions of the same genome.

Get in touch

As always, we welcome comments and feedback about Rfam, so feel free to get in touch by email or by submitting a new GitHub issue.

Join Rfam, see the world

January 31, 2014

Rfam is recruiting! We are currently recruiting an RNA informatician to join our team. We’re looking for someone really enthusiastic about RNA and who’s interested in working with Rfam as we move to genome-based alignments and explore new technologies for the database and website.

If this is you, why not apply to join us as a Senior Bioinformatician?

The Rfam 10.1 release is out!

June 16, 2011

The crowd of people behind Rfam are proud to announce a new release of the Rfam database. This is version 10.1 and is mostly an increase in the number, size and quality of families.

Rfam now has 1973 families, 528 more families than the 10.0 release. We are just one prokaryotic RNA-seq project away from hitting 2000 families! In fact, we have passed 2000 in terms of Rfam accession (RF02031 is the Escherichia coli sRNA, tpke11). My selfish attempt to claim the coveted RF02000 accession was snatched from my grasp by Chris Boursnell who added RF02000 which now corresponds to the rice microRNA MIR1846 from the miRBase database. I did claim RF01999 and RF02001 with two
sub-types of Group II catalytic intron domains 1-4 that Zasha Weinberg kindly provided to Rfam.

The new families included nearly 100 novel elements inferred by Zasha Weinberg and colleagues in his recent Genome Research article [1]. Zasha kindly provides Rfam with the alignments and writes Wikipedia articles for each notable element, greatly easing the burden on Rfam for incorporating these into the database.

Our new recruit, Ruth Eberhardt, originally from the UniProt group at EBI, has also made a significant mark on the new release. Ruth has been busily incorporating “domains” derived from long messenger-like non-coding RNAs (a.k.a. lncRNAs). These are regions within each transcript that are unusually well conserved and there is some evidence that secondary structure within the regions is evolutionarily constrained. The new families include: MEG3, MALAT1, MIAT, PRINS, XistTUG1, HSR-omega, Evf1, HOTAIR, KCNQ1OT1, SOX2OT, NEAT1, EGOT, H19 and HOTAIRM1.

This summer we had the pleasure of hosting another talented summer student, Ben Moore. Ben is a prolific Wikipedian and rapidly made his mark on the RNA Wikipedia entries and continues to do so while working on a MRes in Computational Biology at the University of York. One stunning feat Ben accomplished was passing the article for “Toxin-antitoxin system” through Wikipedia’s peer-review process for “good articles”. This process appears to be at least as rigorous as scientific peer-review and is quite an achievement. He also built a number of families for RNA anti-toxins including Sok, RNAII, IstR, RdlD, FlmB, Sib, RatA, SymR and PtaRNA1. PtaRNA1 is a newly discovered RNA antitoxin that was first published by Sven Findeiss and colleagues in the RNA families track at RNA Biology. This track has provided very useful updates and expansions for Rfam directly from the RNA community.

A guest Rfam rogue, Chris Boursnell, who has been visiting from Andrew Firth’s group has also been busy building new families. With permission from the good people at the Recode-2 database [3] Chris has added a number of new frame-shift elements and has also updated a number of microRNA families based on the latest release of miRBase [4].

An enormous achievement for the database is the inclusion of full-length small subunit ribosomal RNA families. Previously Rfam had just one truncated model that covered all three kingdoms of life. Thanks to the hard work of Eric Nawrocki and colleagues in Sean Eddy’s lab on the Infernal software and related package ssu-align which can now deal with much larger datasets than were previously possible. The three new alignments now cover bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. These are all derived from the highly accurate and excellent alignments from the work of Robin Gutell and colleagues who run the Comparative RNA Website.

Thanks to the exciting work by Stefan Washietl and colleagues on the RNAcode software package we now have good evidence that the “RNA” family, C0343 (RF00120), is in fact protein-coding and most-likely is not functioning as a RNA other than in a mRNA-sense [5]. Therefore C0343 has been removed for the 10.1 release.

Our SRP families have all been rebuilt and supplemented with additional families thanks to the work of Magnus Rosenblad and colleagues [6]. This is another excellent contribution to the RNA families track at RNA Biology. Based on this work the existing two SRP families were replaced and supplemented by 7 new families: Metazoa_SRP (RF00017), Bacteria_small_SRP (RF00169), Fungi_SRP (RF01502), Bacteria_large_SRP (RF01854), Plant_SRP (RF01855), Protozoa_SRP (RF01856) and Archaea_SRP (RF01857). These new models should improve the specificity of Rfam annotations and reduce the number of pseudogenes incorporated.

We have continued to work on the Rfam clans and have added 3 new clans. These are U3 (CL00100), Cobalamin (CL00101) and group-II-D1D4 (CL00102). Also, the membership of the clans tRNA (CL00001), RNaseP (CL00002) and SNORA62 (CL00040) have been updated.

Finally, several problematic microRNA families mir-544 (RF01045), mir-1302 (RF00951), mir-1255 (RF00994), mir-548 (RF01061), mir-649 (RF01029), mir-562 (RF00998) and spliceosomal U13 (RF01210) were rethresholded to remove the excessive number of pseudogene annotations in the full alignments. This rethresholding along with the rebuilding of our SSU models have removed approximately 600,000 annotations from Rfam.

There are countless other changes that have made, if I’ve forgotten to include any that are significant to you or to mention your name then I apologise profusely.

This release could not have happened without the invaluable help of Jen Daub and John Tate who have worked tirelessly and enthusiastically on this release. This was made particularly challenging by the fact that I have recently relocated to my homeland in New Zealand to take up a position as a Rutherford discovery fellow and senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. I hope to continue to contribute to Rfam and the wider RNA community from here. This is also a good moment to welcome the new Czars of Rfam, Sarah Burge and Eric Nawrocki who will now face the exciting and challenging task of managing the day-to-day work of maintaining Rfam. I wish them the best of luck in their new roles. I hope they enjoy it as much as I have.

Paul Gardner.


[1] Weinberg Z, Wang JX, Bogue J, Yang J, Corbino K, Moy RH, Breaker RR. (2010) Comparative genomics reveals 104 candidate structured RNAs from bacteria, archaea, and their metagenomes. Genome Biology. 11(3):R31.

[2] Findeiss S, Schmidtke C, Stadler PF, Bonas U (2010). A novel family of plasmid-transferred anti-sense ncRNAs. RNA Biology. 7 (2): 120–4.

[3] Bekaert M, Firth AE, Zhang Y, Gladyshev VN, Atkins JF, Baranov PV. (2010) Recode-2: new design, new search tools, and many more genes. Nucleic Acids Res. 38(Database issue):D69-74.

[4] Kozomara A, Griffiths-Jones S. (2011) miRBase: integrating microRNA annotation and deep-sequencing data. Nucleic Acids Research. Jan;39(Database issue):D152-7.

[5] Washietl S, Findeiss S, Müller SA, Kalkhof S, von Bergen M, Hofacker IL, Stadler PF, Goldman N. (2011) RNAcode: robust discrimination of coding and noncoding regions in comparative sequence data. RNA. 17(4):578-94.

[6] Rosenblad MA, Larsen N, Samuelsson T, Zwieb C. (2009) Kinship in the SRP RNA family. RNA Biology. 2009 Nov-Dec;6(5):508-16.