Targeted RNA-Sequencing with Competitive Multiplex-PCR Amplicon Libraries

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I have been in the qPCR world for some years now, and a few years back decided to jump into RNA-sequencing. One need in the RNA-seq world I’ve noticed is the need for the assays to be, 1) targeted[which is largely solved], 2) quantitative, 3) reproducible in quantitation, and 4) at a drastically reduced cost. All of these features are important for routine clinical diagnostics based on RNA-seq, but have not been addressed. The work in the study presented above represents our approach to make targeted RNA-sequencing highly quantitative, reproducible, at a drastically reduced need for sequencing depth for large dynamic ranges of templates. Hope you enjoy.

If there are any questions I would be more than happy to address them. -Tom Blomquist University of Toledo

Whole transcriptome RNA-sequencing is a powerful tool, but is costly and yields complex data sets that limit its utility in molecular diagnostic testing. A targeted quantitative RNA-sequencing method that is reproducible and reduces the number of sequencing reads required to measure transcripts over the full range of expression would be better suited to diagnostic testing. Toward this goal, we developed a competitive multiplex PCR-based amplicon sequencing library preparation method that a) targets only the sequences of interest and b) controls for inter-target variation in PCR amplification during library preparation by measuring each transcript native template relative to a known number of synthetic competitive template internal standard copies. To determine the utility of this method, we intentionally selected PCR conditions that would cause transcript amplification products (amplicons) to converge toward equimolar concentrations (normalization) during library preparation. We then tested whether this approach would enable accurate and reproducible quantification of each transcript across multiple library preparations, and at the same time reduce (through normalization) total sequencing reads required for quantification of transcript targets across a large range of expression.


We demonstrate excellent reproducibility (R2 = 0.997) with 97% accuracy to detect 2-fold change using External RNA Controls Consortium (ERCC) reference materials; high inter-day, inter-site and inter-library concordance (R2 = 0.97–0.99) using FDA Sequencing Quality Control (SEQC) reference materials; and cross-platform concordance with both TaqMan qPCR (R2 = 0.96) and whole transcriptome RNA-sequencing following “traditional” library preparation using Illumina NGS kits (R2 = 0.94). Using this method, sequencing reads required to accurately quantify more than 100 targeted transcripts expressed over a 107-fold range was reduced more than 10,000-fold, from 2.3×109 to 1.4×105 sequencing reads. These studies demonstrate that the competitive multiplex-PCR amplicon library preparation method presented here provides the quality control, reproducibility, and reduced sequencing reads necessary for development and implementation of targeted quantitative RNA-sequencing biomarkers in molecular diagnostic testing.

Blomquist TM, Crawford EL, Lovett JL, Yeo J, Stanoszek LM, et al. (2013) Targeted RNA-Sequencing with Competitive Multiplex-PCR Amplicon Libraries. PLoS ONE 8(11), e79120. [article]
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