RNA molecules become attractive small molecule drug targets to treat disease in recent years. Computer-aided drug design can be facilitated by detecting the RNA sites that bind small molecules. However, very limited progress has been reported for the prediction of small molecule–RNA binding sites.


We developed a novel method RNAsite to predict small molecule–RNA binding sites using sequence profile- and structure-based descriptors. RNAsite was shown to be competitive with the state-of-the-art methods on the experimental structures of two independent test sets. When predicted structure models were used, RNAsite outperforms other methods by a large margin. The possibility of improving RNAsite by geometry-based binding pocket detection was investigated. The influence of RNA structure’s flexibility and the conformational changes caused by ligand binding on RNAsite were also discussed. RNAsite is anticipated to be a useful tool for the design of RNA-targeting small molecule drugs.

Availability and implementation

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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