Here we present several covariance models for ε elements from the Hepadnaviridae. The model building included experimentally determined data from previous studies using chemical probing and NMR analysis. These models have sufficient similarity to comprise a clan. The clan has in common a highly conserved overall structure consisting of a lower-stem, bulge, upper-stem and apical-loop.
The models differ in functionally critical regions—notably the two types of avian ε elements have a tetra-loop (UGUU) including a non-canonical UU base pair, while the hepatitis B virus (HBV) epsilon has a tri-loop (UGU). The avian epsilon elements have a less stable dynamic structure in the upper stem. Comparisons between these models and all other Rfam models, and searches of genomes, showed these structures are specific to the Hepadnaviridae. Two family models and the clan are available from the Rfam database.