Comprehensive review and assessment of computational methods for predicting RNA post-transcriptional modification sites from RNA sequences

Zhen Chen, Pei Zhao, Fuyi Li, Yanan Wang, A. Ian Smith, Geoffrey I. Webb, Tatsuya Akutsu, Abdelkader Baggag, Halima Bensmail, Jiangning Song

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13 Citations (Scopus)


RNA post-transcriptional modifications play a crucial role in a myriad of biological processes and cellular functions. To date, more than 160 RNA modifications have been discovered; therefore, accurate identification of RNA-modification sites is fundamental for a better understanding of RNA-mediated biological functions and mechanisms. However, due to limitations in experimental methods, systematic identification of different types of RNA-modification sites remains a major challenge. Recently, more than 20 computational methods have been developed to identify RNA-modification sites in tandem with high-throughput experimental methods, with most of these capable of predicting only single types of RNA-modification sites. These methods show high diversity in their dataset size, data quality, core algorithms, features extracted and feature selection techniques and evaluation strategies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to revisit these methods and summarize their methodologies, in order to improve and further develop computational techniques to identify and characterize RNA-modification sites from the large amounts of sequence data. With this goal in mind, first, we provide a comprehensive survey on a large collection of 27 state-of-the-art approaches for predicting N1-methyladenosine and N6-methyladenosine sites. We cover a variety of important aspects that are crucial for the development of successful predictors, including the dataset quality, operating algorithms, sequence and genomic features, feature selection, model performance evaluation and software utility. In addition, we also provide our thoughts on potential strategies to improve the model performance. Second, we propose a computational approach called DeepPromise based on deep learning techniques for simultaneous prediction of N1-methyladenosine and N6-methyladenosine. To extract the sequence context surrounding the modification sites, three feature encodings, including enhanced nucleic acid composition, one-hot encoding, and RNA embedding, were used as the input to seven consecutive layers of convolutional neural networks (CNNs), respectively. Moreover, DeepPromise further combined the prediction score of the CNN-based models and achieved around 43% higher area under receiver-operating curve (AUROC) for m1A site prediction and 2-6% higher AUROC for m6A site prediction, respectively, when compared with several existing state-of-the-art approaches on the independent test. In-depth analyses of characteristic sequence motifs identified from the convolution-layer filters indicated that nucleotide presentation at proximal positions surrounding the modification sites contributed most to the classification, whereas those at distal positions also affected classification but to different extents. To maximize user convenience, a web server was developed as an implementation of DeepPromise and made publicly available at, with the server accepting both RNA sequences and genomic sequences to allow prediction of two types of putative RNA-modification sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbbz112
Pages (from-to)1676-1696
Number of pages21
JournalBriefings in Bioinformatics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2020


  • RNA post-transcriptional modification
  • bioinformatics
  • deep learning
  • sequence analysis
  • predictor

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