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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Analysis of tag-position bias in MPSS technology

Junfeng Chen* and Magnus Rattray

Author Affiliations

School of Computer Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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BMC Genomics 2006, 7:77  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-77

Published: 7 April 2006



Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing (MPSS) technology was recently developed as a high-throughput technology for measuring the concentration of mRNA transcripts in a sample. It has previously been observed that the position of the signature tag in a transcript (distance from 3' end) can affect the measurement, but this effect has not been studied in detail.


We quantify the effect of tag-position bias in Classic and Signature MPSS technology using published data from Arabidopsis, rice and human. We investigate the relationship between measured concentration and tag-position using nonlinear regression methods. The observed relationship is shown to be broadly consistent across different data sets. We find that there exist different and significant biases in both Classic and Signature MPSS data. For Classic MPSS data, genes with tag-position in the middle-range have highest measured abundance on average while genes with tag-position in the high-range, far from the 3' end, show a significant decrease. For Signature MPSS data, high-range tag-position genes tend to have a flatter relationship between tag-position and measured abundance. Thus, our results confirm that the Signature MPSS method fixes a substantial problem with the Classic MPSS method. For both Classic and Signature MPSS data there is a positive correlation between measured abundance and tag-position for low-range tag-position genes. Compared with the effects of mRNA length and number of exons, tag-position bias seems to be more significant in Arabadopsis. The tag-position bias is reflected both in the measured abundance of genes with a significant tag count and in the proportion of unexpressed genes identified.


Tag-position bias should be taken into consideration when measuring mRNA transcript abundance using MPSS technology, both in Classic and Signature MPSS methods.