Ribosome Challenge Puzzles of the Week

This is a conversation covering all aspects – questions, answers, critiques, debates and musing – of the Ribosome Challenge Puzzles of the Week


I’d like wider player feedback on the choice of marker colors that we use to indicate what choice of nucleotides can be used at each position. For starters, here are the colors currently being used.

In coming up with these specific colors, the player dev team had two primary considerations: 

  1. The colors should be distinguishable, and
  2. The colors should be suggestive, e.g. mixing yellow (A) and red (G) points makes orange (A or G).
    Unfortunately for consideration 1, different people see colors differently, so some colors may be hard to distinguish for one person, while different colors are hard for another. So we can’t expect one set of colors to be ideal for everyone. But we can undoubtedly make improvements. I’m pretty sure there has been research into how to choose a set of colors that are distinguishable to “most” people, so if anyone is familiar with that, please speak up.

Another thought I have is that we might treat 2-base choices (the middle line in the image above) systematically different than the 3-base combinations (the last line).  With this third consideration added to the first two, I constructed this set of colors.

Here I have attempted to distinguish between the 2-base and 3-base choices by making the former brighter and the latter darker.

Working in the player dev group on this, we found that it can be hard to judge any specific suggestion for an improvement without seeing it in the context of the other colors. To address that, I have created these two charts as Google “drawings” and made them readable/copyable by anyone with the URL. The URLs for these are https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1qXcEVka68nH1sTUNc9gVnLokeQ-F4OqP5idZSvAqat8/edit and https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1FBL1MEWYen6V_7orInubudy9tXi5Rs9SsI8NFbJCNU0/edit. So if you have some specific suggestions for one or more colors to change, make a copy of one of these, make the changes and post the new picture here. If you have used any of Google’s other document types, I think you’ll quickly figure out how to change a color. If not, you can always ask here.

Also, there have been numerous good ideas on how we could convey the constraints better than just colored marks.  For right now, we’re concentrating on the color marks because we can do that with Eternascript, as opposed to adding new capabilities into the game. Changes to the game code are possible, but they are subject to the constraints of longer-term planning in a way that Eternascript code isn’t. So keep up those thoughts, even if we can’t implement them right away.

I would like to see what tools (if any) solvers are using to solve the puzzle. 

I would like to see the “do not change this NT”  circle removed so I don’t have to hunt down which is which. Wandering through the puzzle would go much faster.

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Not A and not G look like the same color in proposal #1

My thoughts are you could make the highlight bigger. It would be easier to see the color if it was about 50% larger.

@Brourd, does this work better for you?


Good idea about increasing the size of the marking to make the colors clearer. 50% bigger seems like it might be pretty ugly, but I’ll ask LFP if he can try out some alternatives.

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Looks slightly better to me. 

The development team has been working hard the last couple months creating rather ingenious constraint tools for the e. Coli rRNA puzzles. Here is a brief of explanation of each tool:

Locked bases - Some bases that are involved in tertiary bonding with other subunits and proteins are locked in order to prevent modifications that could damage ribosome functionality.

Purple regions (in the small red box upper left) - The energy models don’t really know how to predict what bases pair up in these loops. Don’t worry about misfolds in these areas. 

Base mutation constraints (multicolored rings) - Known species variations based on the degree of base conservation among gammaproteobacteria, which is the phylogenetic class that includes E coli. By comparing the e. Coli rRNA to its closest relatives, we have identified mutations that may be less likely to disrupt the ribosome.

One more note, be sure to click on the red box indicating misfolds in the target secondary structure so that misfolds are highlighted in red on the puzzle. Then put the puzzle into natural mode and look for stems marked in red. These are the misfolds that need to be forced apart, so try to find a mutation that a) satisfies the constraints (which you can tell by sight once you get some practice reading the colors), b) reduces the energy delta significantly (not just a few tenths) and c) causes the puzzle to significantly change its folding.

I wrote this explanation for the ribosome designs we were creating (and will be creating) but thought I would share in case it helps clarify what is going on in the weekly challenge puzzles.


Heres a slide I made to go with this great Doc from Digital.

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Other than following the constraints color codes, I have just used the hunt and peck method which seems crude after getting a taste for the mark & mutate scripts. If there is a tool to automate mutating several bases not near one another I would like to know about it. 
Also, It would be great to know how the Arc Plot can benefit this type of puzzle. 

In working thru Ribo Challenges, I may have come across a helpful way to reduce chances of going into a “Delta Death Valley”.
Where Delta Death Valley is a design with suboptimal Delta low that you can’t get out of by just adding new mutations.

When deciding which sequence to choose among a list of current low Delta sequences, I avoid sequences where there are no IUPAC mutable NT’s within the red mis-folding areas.  Instead I pick a low Delta sequence with a large number of IUPAC mutable NT’s.


slide update for the challenge puzzles

 As per Omei & DigitalEmbrace, I started using the glue tool ( hold down the alt key and click or click & drag your cursor over bases you wish to mark).
In addition, hold down the shift key, click & drag the cursor to mark sequential bases to mark them grey outlined.
The marking told me what already bound properly. Switching from Target to Natural was much easier that way. Resolved the two challenges a few times to confirm. Thanks :slight_smile:

I also found that I can eliminate all of the constraint markings over the bases. It helped me to not get distracted by the constraints for a while. I have the mark mutations script V0.7 on my booster box. When I ran it and clicked oK, the constraints disappeared. Just refresh and they will come back.

Are the marker colors still open for discussion? I have a difficult time remembering what the current ones represent. I’d like to propose something more like this…

@Zama It’s absolutely open for discussion. I certainly believe we can do better, but so far it seems that no specific proposal has gotten widespread support.

I’m not quite sure how to interpret your examples. On the surface, it seems like you are suggesting doing away with having any color indication of the current base assignment. If so, that seems problematical. On the other hand, I could interpret your first example as meaning “it is currently G but it could also be A”. With this interpretation, mutating the G to an A, for example, would turn the base itself yellow and the mark red. Essentially, it would amount to letting the currently assigned base color speak for itself. With that interpretation, we would only need to introduce four new colors, instead of 10. This should certainly address the “too many colors to distinguish and/or remember” issue.

I sure there is more to your proposal than this, though. Can you elaborate with more examples or explanatory text.?

I’m sorry I was unclear, especially on the “not” row where I didn’t bother to change the centers. My thoughts are the current base would be the center and the outer ring the other choice or in the case of the second row- the not case would be the outer ring. Did that help?

I think this is an excellent idea! Others’ thoughts?

Only way to find out if it works is to create a test script  ̄_(ツ)_/ ̄

I like this great idea!