Application of the 3' mRNA-Seq using unique molecular identifiers in highly degraded RNA derived from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue

BMC Genomics. 2021 Oct 24;22(1):759. doi: 10.1186/s12864-021-08068-1.


Background: Archival formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples with clinical and histological data are a singularly valuable resource for developing new molecular biomarkers. However, transcriptome analysis remains challenging with standard mRNA-seq methods as FFPE derived-RNA samples are often highly modified and fragmented. The recently developed 3' mRNA-seq method sequences the 3' region of mRNA using unique molecular identifiers (UMI), thus generating gene expression data with minimal PCR bias. In this study, we evaluated the performance of 3' mRNA-Seq using Lexogen QuantSeq 3' mRNA-Seq Library Prep Kit FWD with UMI, comparing with TruSeq Stranded mRNA-Seq and RNA Exome Capture kit. The fresh-frozen (FF) and FFPE tissues yielded nucleotide sizes range from 13 to > 70% of DV200 values; input amounts ranged from 1 ng to 100 ng for validation.

Results: The total mapped reads of QuantSeq 3' mRNA-Seq to the reference genome ranged from 99 to 74% across all samples. After PCR bias correction, 3 to 56% of total sequenced reads were retained. QuantSeq 3' mRNA-Seq data showed highly reproducible data across replicates in Universal Human Reference RNA (UHR, R > 0.94) at input amounts from 1 ng to 100 ng, and FF and FFPE paired samples (R = 0.92) at 10 ng. Severely degraded FFPE RNA with ≤30% of DV200 value showed good concordance (R > 0.87) with 100 ng input. A moderate correlation was observed when directly comparing QuantSeq 3' mRNA-Seq data with TruSeq Stranded mRNA-Seq (R = 0.78) and RNA Exome Capture data (R > 0.67).

Conclusion: In this study, QuantSeq 3' mRNA-Seq with PCR bias correction using UMI is shown to be a suitable method for gene quantification in both FF and FFPE RNAs. 3' mRNA-Seq with UMI may be applied to severely degraded RNA from FFPE tissues generating high-quality sequencing data.

Keywords: 3′ mRNA-Seq; FFPE; Gene expression; PCR amplification bias; UMI.

MeSH terms

  • Formaldehyde
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • RNA*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Tissue Fixation


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Formaldehyde
  • RNA