RNA molecules can form secondary and tertiary structures that can regulate their localization and function. These structures are rarely static and different copies of the same RNA can often adopt many different conformations. Despite this most methods are only capable of characterizing RNA at the consensus level, looking at the average over RNA molecules.
A new paper in Nucleic Acids Research from Teshome Bizuyaheu in the Valen group addresses this by developing a method to probe for structure on individual RNA molecules. By introducing RNA modifications in a structure-dependent manner and using nanopore sequencing to decode the location of these modifications, the new method, Single Molecule Structure sequencing (SMS-seq), is able to create limited structural profiles from individual molecules. Furthermore, since each RNA is probed at numerous places the discovery of dependencies and heterogeneity of structural features within a molecule is possible.
The paper can be found here.