RNA Solutions: Synthesizing Information to Support Transcriptomics (RNASSIST)

Bioinformatics. 2021 Sep 27;btab673. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btab673. Online ahead of print.


Motivation: Transcriptomics is a common approach to identify changes in gene expression induced by a disease state. Standard transcriptomic analyses consider differentially expressed genes (DEGs) as indicative of disease states so only a few genes would be treated as signals when the effect size is small, such as in brain tissue. For tissue with small effect sizes, if the DEGs do not belong to a pathway known to be involved in the disease, there would be little left in the transcriptome for researchers to follow up with.

Results: We developed RNA Solutions: Synthesizing Information to Support Transcriptomics (RNASSIST), a new approach to identify hidden signals in transcriptomic data by linking differential expression and co-expression networks using machine learning. We applied our approach to RNA-seq data of post-mortem brains that compared the Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) group to the control group. Many of the candidate genes are not differentially expressed so would likely be ignored by standard transcriptomic analysis pipelines. Through multiple validation strategies, we concluded that these RNASSIST-identified genes likely play a significant role in AUD.

Availability: The RNASSIST algorithm is available at https://github.com/netrias/rnassist and both the software and the data used in RNASSIST are available at https://figshare.com/articles/software/RNAssist_Software_and_Data/16617250.

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.