Background: Transcriptome analysis of porcine whole blood has several applications, which include deciphering genetic mechanisms for host responses to viral infection and vaccination. The abundance of alpha- and beta-globin transcripts in blood, however, impedes the ability to cost-effectively detect transcripts of low abundance. Although protocols exist for reduction of globin transcripts from human and mouse/rat blood, preliminary work demonstrated these are not useful for porcine blood Globin Reduction (GR). Our objectives were to develop a porcine specific GR protocol and to evaluate the GR effects on gene discovery and sequence read coverage in RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) experiments.
Results: A GR protocol for porcine blood samples was developed using RNase H with antisense oligonucleotides specifically targeting porcine hemoglobin alpha (HBA) and beta (HBB) mRNAs. Whole blood samples (n = 12) collected in Tempus tubes were used for evaluating the efficacy and effects of GR on RNA-seq. The HBA and HBB mRNA transcripts comprised an average of 46.1% of the mapped reads in pre-GR samples, but those reads reduced to an average of 8.9% in post-GR samples. Differential gene expression analysis showed that the expression level of 11,046 genes were increased, whereas 34 genes, excluding HBA and HBB, showed decreased expression after GR (FDR <0.05). An additional 815 genes were detected only in post-GR samples.
Conclusions: Our porcine specific GR primers and protocol minimize the number of reads of globin transcripts in whole blood samples and provides increased coverage as well as accuracy and reproducibility of transcriptome analysis. Increased detection of low abundance mRNAs will ensure that studies relying on transcriptome analyses do not miss information that may be vital to the success of the study.