Estimating the Contributions of Selection and Self-Organization in RNA Secondary Structure
In addition to characteristic structural properties imposed by evolutionary modification, evolved, single-stranded RNAs also display characteristic structural properties imposed by intrinsic physical constraints on RNA polymer folding. The balance of intrinsic and functionally selected characters in the folded conformation of evolved secondary structures was determined by comparing the predicted secondary structures of evolved and unevolved (random) RNA sequences. Though evolved conformations are significantly more ordered than conformations of random-sequence RNA, this analysis demonstrates that the majority of conformational order within evolved structures results not from evolutionary optimization but from constraints imposed by rules intrinsic to RNA polymer folding.
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