RNA-seq of human reference RNA samples using a thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptase

RNA. 2016 Apr;22(4):597-613. doi: 10.1261/rna.055558.115. Epub 2016 Jan 29.


Next-generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has revolutionized our ability to analyze transcriptomes. Current RNA-seq methods are highly reproducible, but each has biases resulting from different modes of RNA sample preparation, reverse transcription, and adapter addition, leading to variability between methods. Moreover, the transcriptome cannot be profiled comprehensively because highly structured RNAs, such as tRNAs and snoRNAs, are refractory to conventional RNA-seq methods. Recently, we developed a new method for strand-specific RNA-seq using thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptases (TGIRTs). TGIRT enzymes have higher processivity and fidelity than conventional retroviral reverse transcriptases plus a novel template-switching activity that enables RNA-seq adapter addition during cDNA synthesis without using RNA ligase. Here, we obtained TGIRT-seq data sets for well-characterized human RNA reference samples and compared them to previous data sets obtained for these RNAs by the Illumina TruSeq v2 and v3 methods. We find that TGIRT-seq recapitulates the relative abundance of human transcripts and RNA spike-ins in ribo-depleted, fragmented RNA samples comparably to non-strand-specific TruSeq v2 and better than strand-specific TruSeq v3. Moreover, TGIRT-seq is more strand specific than TruSeq v3 and eliminates sampling biases from random hexamer priming, which are inherent to TruSeq. The TGIRT-seq data sets also show more uniform 5' to 3' gene coverage and identify more splice junctions, particularly near the 5' ends of mRNAs, than do the TruSeq data sets. Finally, TGIRT-seq enables the simultaneous profiling of mRNAs and lncRNAs in the same RNA-seq experiment as structured small ncRNAs, including tRNAs, which are essentially absent with TruSeq.

Keywords: TruSeq; diagnostics; high-throughput sequencing; small noncoding RNA; tRNA; transcriptome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Expression Profiling / standards
  • Humans
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / genetics
  • RNA, Small Untranslated / metabolism
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • Reference Standards
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / standards


  • RNA Splice Sites
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Untranslated
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase