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Title: Impact of RNA-seq data analysis algorithms on gene expression estimation and downstream prediction

To use next-generation sequencing technology such as RNA-seq for medical and health applications, choosing proper analysis methods for biomarker identification remains a critical challenge for most users. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has led the Sequencing Quality Control (SEQC) project to conduct a comprehensive investigation of 278 representative RNA-seq data analysis pipelines consisting of 13 sequence mapping, three quantification, and seven normalization methods. In this article, we focused on the impact of the joint effects of RNA-seq pipelines on gene expression estimation as well as the downstream prediction of disease outcomes. First, we developed and applied three metrics (i.e., accuracy, precision, and reliability) to quantitatively evaluate each pipeline’s performance on gene expression estimation. We then investigated the correlation between the proposed metrics and the downstream prediction performance using two real-world cancer datasets (i.e., SEQC neuroblastoma dataset and the NIH/NCI TCGA lung adenocarcinoma dataset). We found that RNA-seq pipeline components jointly and significantly impacted the accuracy of gene expression estimation, and its impact was extended to the downstream prediction of these cancer outcomes. Specifically, RNA-seq pipelines that produced more accurate, precise, and reliable gene expression estimation tended to perform better in the prediction of disease outcome. In the more » end, we provided scenarios as guidelines for users to use these three metrics to select sensible RNA-seq pipelines for the improved accuracy, precision, and reliability of gene expression estimation, which lead to the improved downstream gene expression-based prediction of disease outcome.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    Accurate estimation of transcript isoform abundance is critical for downstream transcriptome analyses and can lead to precise molecular mechanisms for understanding complex human diseases, like cancer. Simplex mRNA Sequencing (RNA-Seq) based isoform quantification approaches are facing the challenges of inherent sampling bias and unidentifiable read origins. A large-scale experiment shows that the consistency between RNA-Seq and other mRNA quantification platforms is relatively low at the isoform level compared to the gene level. In this project, we developed a platform-integrated model for transcript quantification (IntMTQ) to improve the performance of RNA-Seq on isoform expression estimation. IntMTQ, which benefits from the mRNA expressions reported by the other platforms, provides more precise RNA-Seq-based isoform quantification and leads to more accurate molecular signatures for disease phenotype prediction.


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    Availability and implementation

    Source code is available at:

    Supplementary information

    Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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