The assessment of gene expression is central to uncovering the functions of the genome, understanding the regulation of development and investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer and other diseases. RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) now is the routine to assess the genome wide gene expression due to its high speed, accuracy and reproducibility, and low cost. An enormous volume of RNA-seq data have been accumulating and deposited in public data repositories, such as the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) and the Sequence Read Archive (SRA). Retrospectively analyzing these data or conducting a brand new RNA-seq study is fundamentally important for researchers. However, processing raw reads of RNA-seq data, no matter public or newly sequenced data, involves a lot of specialized tools and technical configurations that are often unfamiliar and time-consuming to learn for non-bioinformatics researchers. For example, when working with public RNA-seq data, researchers need to download the RNA-seq data, convert data to FASTQ format, check the sequencing type (i.e., single-end or pair-end), do the quality control (when needed, trim adapters and poor quality reads), download the reference genome, transcript and annotation file, align reads to the reference genome or transcript and quantify gene expression, etc. These steps and the details that they involve are even tedious for bioinformatic scientist. The goal of BP4RNAseq is to make the RNA-seq analysis smooth and easy and to minimize efforts from researchers. The package offers several benefits to researchers. First, the package is a highly automated tool. It can take only two nontechnical parameters and output six formatted gene expression quantification at gene and transcript levels. Second, it improves the accuracy and sensitivity of RNA-seq analyses by using an optimized pipeline. Third, it offers individual tools to provide users full control to fine tune precisely how individual steps are optimized. This can allow users to inspect intermediate outputs and thus to further improve the accuracy and sensitivity of RNA-seq analyses. Users can also use the package as a toolbox to run the exact tools that suit their needs. Last but not least, the package applies to both retrospective and newly generated bulk RNA-seq data analyses and is also applicable for single-cell RNA-seq analyses based on the Alevin algorithm.1
BP4RNAseq runs in Windows (Subsystem for Linux), Linux and macOS.
The BP4RNAseq requires the following utilities:
Users can install these dependencies manually.
Alternatively, we provide a bash script to aid users to install all the dependencies based on conda. The script uses Wget, which is pre-installed on most Linux distributions such as Windows Subsystem for Linux, to download conda. If wget is not installed, users can easily install it with the following commands.
With Wget installed, users can install all the dependencies with the following commands:
You can install BP4RNAseq from GitHub with:
The functions in BP4RNAseq are integrated into two main functions: down2quan for public RNA-seq data, fastq2quan for newly generated RNA-seq data.
down2quan requires no input data and can receive only two nontechnical parameters. The parameter
accession specifies the accession id of the target public RNA-seq data in the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) or the Sequence Read Archive (SRA). The accession id can be of a whole ‘BioProject’ or multiple ‘BioSample’. The parameter
taxa offers the scientific or common name of the organism investigated. A simple example
will download the public RNA-seq data of two ‘BioSample’ with accession id “SRR11486115” and “SRR11486114”, respectively, and the latest reference genome, transcript and annotation data of Drosophila melanogaster, do the quality control (filter out the poor-quality reads and contaminations), reads alignments and gene expression quantification based on both alignment-free and alignment-based workflows in the work directory. During the quality control procedure, if the contamination of the adapter exists, the program will automatically detect the adapter sequence to trim. However, an option is given to the users to provide the adapter sequence if they know it.
fastq2quan works with local RNA-seq data in fastq formats. It needs two nontechnical parameters at a minimum, i.e.,
taxa as explained above and
pairwhich specifies the sequencing type with
single for single-end (SE) reads or
paired for paired-end (PE) reads. Users should place all the fastq files in the work directory. A simple example
will download the latest reference genome, transcript and annotation data of Drosophila melanogaster, and do the quality control, reads alignments and gene expression quantification using the local RNA-seq data based on both alignment-free and alignment-based workflows as the program down2quan do.
Both programs support the parallel computing, which is specified by the
Outputs from both functions are two gene count matrixes and two transcript count matrixes based on the alignment-based workflow and the alignment-free workflow, and corresponding average matrixes over two workflows. These outputs can be directly processed with DESeq2, edgeR or limma. Researchers may use the averages for downstream analyses.2 Alternatively, we recommend to decide the type of data to use based on their consistencies with qPCR results if available or/and the results from the downstream analyses.
down2quan and fastq2quan can also be extended to process single-cell RNA-seq data by setting the
scRNA parameter to be ‘TRUE’ and specifying the protocols. Currently, dropseq, chromium and chromiumV3 are supported protocols. A simple example
will download the public single-cell RNA-seq data from two ‘BioSample’ with accession id “SRR11402955” and “SRR11402974”, respectively, and the latest reference genome, transcript and annotation data of Homo sapiens, do the quality control, reads alignments and gene expression quantification based on the Alevin workflow.
can preprocess local single-cell RNA-seq data in fastq formats. The data are paired-end reads with one read containing cellular barcode and unique molecule identifier (UMI) and the other read being the RNA sequence.
The outputs of down2quan and fastq2quan are gene count matrix compressed in binary format, and gene ids, barcode + UMI and tier categorization in three separate files. These outputs can be further processed with tximport and Seurat.
BP4RNAseq offers individual tools to users. These tools can allow users to run the exact tools that suit their needs. Specifically, these tools are:
Additionally, these individual tools provide users full control to fine tune precisely how individual steps are optimized. This can allow experienced users to further improve the accuracy and sensitivity of RNA-seq analyses. For example, setting the optional parameter
salmon_quan_add of align_free_quan() as
salmon_quan_add = "--useEM --gcBias" will allow users to apply the standard EM algorithm to optimize abundance estimates and in the mean time to correct for fragment-level GC biases in the input data when performing the alignment-free workflow. Details about the optional customizing setting in each tool can be found in package help page.