A reinforcement learning framework for pooled oligonucleotide design

Benjamin M. David, Ryan M. Wyllie, Ramdane Harouaka, Paul A. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivation: The goal of oligonucleotide (oligo) design is to select oligos that optimize a set of design criteria. Oligo design problems are combinatorial in nature and require computationally intensive models to evaluate design criteria. Even relatively small problems can be intractable for brute-force approaches that test every possible combination of oligos, so heuristic approaches must be used to find near-optimal solutions. Results: We present a general reinforcement learning (RL) framework, called OligoRL, to solve oligo design problems with complex constraints. OligoRL allows 'black-box' design criteria and can be adapted to solve many oligo design problems. We highlight the flexibility of OligoRL by building tools to solve three distinct design problems: (i) finding pools of random DNA barcodes that lack restriction enzyme recognition sequences (CutFreeRL); (ii) compressing large, non-degenerate oligo pools into smaller degenerate ones (OligoCompressor) and (iii) finding Not-So-Random hexamer primer pools that avoid rRNA and other unwanted transcripts during RNA-seq library preparation (NSR-RL). OligoRL demonstrates how RL offers a general solution for complex oligo design problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2219-2225
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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