The transcription of the mitochondrial genome is pivotal for maintenance of mitochondrial functions, and the deregulated mitochondrial transcriptome contributes to various pathological changes. Despite substantial progress having been achieved in uncovering the transcriptional complexity of the nuclear transcriptome, many unknowns and controversies remain for the mitochondrial transcriptome, partially owing to the lack of a highly efficient mitochondrial RNA (mtRNA) sequencing and analysis approach.
Here, researchers first comprehensively evaluated the influence of essential experimental protocols, including strand-specific library construction, two RNA enrichment strategies, and optimal rRNA depletion, on accurately profiling mitochondrial transcriptome in whole-transcriptome sequencing (WTS) data. Based on these insights, they developed a highly efficient approach specifically suitable for targeted sequencing of whole mitochondrial transcriptome, termed capture-based mtRNA seq (CAP), in which strand-specific library construction and optimal rRNA depletion were applied. Compared with WTS, CAP has a great decrease of required data volume without affecting the sensitivity and accuracy of detection. In addition, CAP also characterized the unannotated mt-tRNA transcripts whose expression levels are below the detection limits of conventional WTS.
As a proof-of-concept characterization of mtRNAs, the transcription initiation sites and mtRNA cleavage ratio were accurately identified in CAP data. Moreover, CAP had very reliable performance in plasma and single-cell samples, highlighting its wide application. Altogether, the present study has established a highly efficient pipeline for targeted sequencing of mtRNAs, which may pave the way toward functional annotation of mtRNAs and mtRNA-based diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in various diseases.