R wrapper to DSSR in VeriNA3d

I recently came across a Bioinformatics article VeriNA3d: an R package for nucleic acids data mining by Gallego et al. from IRB Barcelona. VeriNA3d can perform dataset analysis, single-structure analysis, and exploratory data analyses, with an emphasis on complex RNA structures. I am glad to see the DSSR is one of the third-party utilities that have been integrated into VeriNA3d, as shown below

VeriNA3d offers integration with third-party utilities such as the non-redundant lists of RNA structures (Leontis and Zirbel, 2012), the eRMSD suggested to compare RNA structures (Bottaro et al., 2014), a wrapper to the DSSR (Dissecting the Spatial Structure of RNA) software (Lu et al., 2015) and query functions to access the PDBe REST API (Velankar et al., 2016).

I browsed the GitLab repository and read through the supplemental documents. Clearly, VeriNA3d is a handy tool for the R community to perform RNA 3D structural analyses.

To DSSR users, Section “9 The dssr wrapper: getting the base pairs” of the supplemental PDF “VeriNA3d: introduction and use cases” is particularly relevant. The three paragraphs (with minor edits) are excerpted below:

The DSSR software (Dissecting the Spatial Structure of RNA) (Lu, Bussemaker, and Olson 2015) represents an invaluable resource to handle RNA structures. Some of the functions of veriNA3d overlap with the functionalities of DSSR, and both applications provide unique different features. We implement a wrapper to execute DSSR directly from R and get the best of both worlds in one place.

Note that installing veriNA3d does not automatically install DSSR, since we don’t redistribute third-party software. Before any user can use our wrapper, the dssr function, DSSR should be installed separately. To address this installation we redirect you to the DSSR manual, where anyone can find the specific instructions for their system. Once DSSR is installed and working in your computer, you will also be able to use it with our wrapper. If the DSSR executable (named x3dna-dssr) is in your path, dssr will find it automatically. If the wrapper does not find it, you can still use it specifying the absolute path to the executable with the argument exefile. Find more information running ?dssr.

One of the DSSR capabilities that users might be interested in is the detection and classification of base pairs. The following code shows a simple example. The output of the dssr wrapper is an object got from the json DSSR output. From R, json objects are parsed in the form of a tree of lists, with different types of information. Most of the interesting data is under the list models, sublist parameters, as shown herein.

I echo the authors’ policy of not redistributing third-party software with VeriNA3d. DSSR is under active development. Users should always visit the 3DNA Forum for downloading the latest version of DSSR, reporting bugs, and asking questions.

The R interface to DSSR (via JSON output) in VeriNA3d represents one of the intended use cases of DSSR’s many possible applications. No doubt DSSR is being increasingly integrated into other resources of RNA structural bioinformatics. Hopefully, more advanced DSSR features (than the detection and classification of base pairs) will also be widely appreciated in the future. Users would love DSSR better when they gain more experience in structural bioinformatics.

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