Evaluating data integrity in ribosome footprinting datasets through modelled polysome profiles

Nucleic Acids Res. 2022 Aug 18;gkac705. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkac705. Online ahead of print.


The assessment of transcriptome-wide ribosome binding to mRNAs is useful for studying the dynamic regulation of protein synthesis. Two methods frequently applied in eukaryotic cells that operate at different levels of resolution are polysome profiling, which reveals the distribution of ribosome loads across the transcriptome, and ribosome footprinting (also termed ribosome profiling or Ribo-Seq), which when combined with appropriate data on mRNA expression can reveal ribosome densities on individual transcripts. In this study we develop methods for relating the information content of these two methods to one another, by reconstructing theoretical polysome profiles from ribosome footprinting data. Our results validate both approaches as experimental tools. Although we show that both methods can yield highly consistent data, some published ribosome footprinting datasets give rise to reconstructed polysome profiles with non-physiological features. We trace these aberrant features to inconsistencies in RNA and Ribo-Seq data when compared to datasets yielding physiological polysome profiles, thereby demonstrating that modelled polysomes are useful for assessing global dataset properties such as its quality in a simple, visual approach. Aside from using polysome profile reconstructions on published datasets, we propose that this also provides a useful tool for validating new ribosome footprinting datasets in early stages of analyses.