AtRTD2: A Reference Transcript Dataset for accurate quantification of alternative splicing and expression changes in Arabidopsis thaliana RNA-seq data

Runxuan Zhang, Cristiane P G Calixto, Yamile Marquez, Peter Venhuizen, Nikoleta A Tzioutziou, Wenbin Guo, Mark Spensley, Nicolas Frei dit Frey, Heribert Hirt, Allan B James, Hugh G Nimmo, Andrea Barta, Maria Kalyna, John W S Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Alternative splicing is the major post-transcriptional mechanism by which gene expression is regulated and affects a wide range of processes and responses in most eukaryotic organisms. RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) can generate genome-wide quantification of individual transcript isoforms to identify changes in expression and alternative splicing. RNA-seq is an essential modern tool but its ability to accurately quantify transcript isoforms depends on the diversity, completeness and quality of the transcript information. Results We have developed a new Reference Transcript Dataset for Arabidopsis (AtRTD2) for RNA-seq analysis containing over 82k non-redundant transcripts, whereby 74,194 transcripts originate from 27,667 protein-coding genes. A total of 13,524 protein-coding genes have at least one alternatively spliced transcript in AtRTD2 such that about 60% of the 22,453 protein-coding, intron-containing genes in Arabidopsis undergo alternative splicing. More than 600 putative U12 introns were identified in more than 2,000 transcripts. AtRTD2 was generated from transcript assemblies of ca. 8.5 billion pairs of reads from 285 RNA-seq data sets obtained from 129 RNA-seq libraries and merged along with the previous version, AtRTD, and Araport11 transcript assemblies. AtRTD2 increases the diversity of transcripts and through application of stringent filters represents the most extensive and accurate transcript collection for Arabidopsis to date. We have demonstrated a generally good correlation of alternative splicing ratios from RNA-seq data analysed by Salmon and experimental data from high resolution RT-PCR. However, we have observed inaccurate quantification of transcript isoforms for genes with multiple transcripts which have variation in the lengths of their UTRs. This variation is not effectively corrected in RNA-seq analysis programmes and will therefore impact RNA-seq analyses generally. To address this, we have tested different genome-wide modifications of AtRTD2 to improve transcript quantification and alternative splicing analysis. As a result, we release AtRTD2-QUASI specifically for use in Quantification of Alternatively Spliced Isoforms and demonstrate that it out-performs other available transcriptomes for RNA-seq analysis. Conclusions We have generated a new transcriptome resource for RNA-seq analyses in Arabidopsis (AtRTD2) designed to address quantification of different isoforms and alternative splicing in gene expression studies. Experimental validation of alternative splicing changes identified inaccuracies in transcript quantification due to UTR length variation. To solve this problem, we also release a modified reference transcriptome, AtRTD2-QUASI for quantification of transcript isoforms, which shows high correlation with experimental data.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDefault journal
StatePublished - May 6 2016


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