Comprehensive evaluation of fusion transcript detection algorithms and a meta-caller to combine top performing methods in paired-end RNA-seq data

Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Mar 18;44(5):e47. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv1234. Epub 2015 Nov 17.


Background: Fusion transcripts are formed by either fusion genes (DNA level) or trans-splicing events (RNA level). They have been recognized as a promising tool for diagnosing, subtyping and treating cancers. RNA-seq has become a precise and efficient standard for genome-wide screening of such aberration events. Many fusion transcript detection algorithms have been developed for paired-end RNA-seq data but their performance has not been comprehensively evaluated to guide practitioners. In this paper, we evaluated 15 popular algorithms by their precision and recall trade-off, accuracy of supporting reads and computational cost. We further combine top-performing methods for improved ensemble detection.

Results: Fifteen fusion transcript detection tools were compared using three synthetic data sets under different coverage, read length, insert size and background noise, and three real data sets with selected experimental validations. No single method dominantly performed the best but SOAPfuse generally performed well, followed by FusionCatcher and JAFFA. We further demonstrated the potential of a meta-caller algorithm by combining top performing methods to re-prioritize candidate fusion transcripts with high confidence that can be followed by experimental validation.

Conclusion: Our result provides insightful recommendations when applying individual tool or combining top performers to identify fusion transcript candidates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Alternative Splicing
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Fusion*
  • Humans
  • Mutant Chimeric Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Software*


  • Mutant Chimeric Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • RNA, Messenger