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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Deep RNA sequencing analysis of readthrough gene fusions in human prostate adenocarcinoma and reference samples

Serban Nacu, Wenlin Yuan, Zhengyan Kan, Deepali Bhatt, Celina Sanchez Rivers, Jeremy Stinson, Brock A Peters, Zora Modrusan, Kenneth Jung, Somasekar Seshagiri* and Thomas D Wu*

Author Affiliations

Departments of Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology, Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, California 94080, USA

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BMC Medical Genomics 2011, 4:11  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-4-11

Published: 24 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Readthrough fusions across adjacent genes in the genome, or transcription-induced chimeras (TICs), have been estimated using expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries to involve 4-6% of all genes. Deep transcriptional sequencing (RNA-Seq) now makes it possible to study the occurrence and expression levels of TICs in individual samples across the genome.

Methods

We performed single-end RNA-Seq on three human prostate adenocarcinoma samples and their corresponding normal tissues, as well as brain and universal reference samples. We developed two bioinformatics methods to specifically identify TIC events: a targeted alignment method using artificial exon-exon junctions within 200,000 bp from adjacent genes, and genomic alignment allowing splicing within individual reads. We performed further experimental verification and characterization of selected TIC and fusion events using quantitative RT-PCR and comparative genomic hybridization microarrays.

Results

Targeted alignment against artificial exon-exon junctions yielded 339 distinct TIC events, including 32 gene pairs with multiple isoforms. The false discovery rate was estimated to be 1.5%. Spliced alignment to the genome was less sensitive, finding only 18% of those found by targeted alignment in 33-nt reads and 59% of those in 50-nt reads. However, spliced alignment revealed 30 cases of TICs with intervening exons, in addition to distant inversions, scrambled genes, and translocations. Our findings increase the catalog of observed TIC gene pairs by 66%.

We verified 6 of 6 predicted TICs in all prostate samples, and 2 of 5 predicted novel distant gene fusions, both private events among 54 prostate tumor samples tested. Expression of TICs correlates with that of the upstream gene, which can explain the prostate-specific pattern of some TIC events and the restriction of the SLC45A3-ELK4 e4-e2 TIC to ERG-negative prostate samples, as confirmed in 20 matched prostate tumor and normal samples and 9 lung cancer cell lines.

Conclusions

Deep transcriptional sequencing and analysis with targeted and spliced alignment methods can effectively identify TIC events across the genome in individual tissues. Prostate and reference samples exhibit a wide range of TIC events, involving more genes than estimated previously using ESTs. Tissue specificity of TIC events is correlated with expression patterns of the upstream gene. Some TIC events, such as MSMB-NCOA4, may play functional roles in cancer.