Recently, rapid improvements in technology and decrease in sequencing costs have made RNA-Seq a widely used technique to quantify gene expression levels. Various normalization approaches have been proposed, owing to the importance of normalization in the analysis of RNA-Seq data. A comparison of recently proposed normalization methods is required to generate suitable guidelines for the selection of the most appropriate approach for future experiments.
In this paper, researchers at Chungbuk National University, Korea compared eight non-abundance (RC, UQ, Med, TMM, DESeq, Q, RPKM, and ERPKM) and two abundance estimation normalization methods (RSEM and Sailfish). The experiments were based on real Illumina high-throughput RNA-Seq of 35- and 76-nucleotide sequences produced in the MAQC project and simulation reads. Reads were mapped with human genome obtained from UCSC Genome Browser Database. For precise evaluation, the researchers investigated Spearman correlation between the normalization results from RNA-Seq and MAQC qRT-PCR values for 996 genes.
Based on this work, they showed that out of the eight non-abundance estimation normalization methods, RC, UQ, Med, TMM, DESeq, and Q gave similar normalization results for all data sets. For RNA-Seq of a 35-nucleotide sequence, RPKM showed the highest correlation results, but for RNA-Seq of a 76-nucleotide sequence, least correlation was observed than the other methods. ERPKM did not improve results than RPKM. Between two abundance estimation normalization methods, for RNA-Seq of a 35-nucleotide sequence, higher correlation was obtained with Sailfish than that with RSEM, which was better than without using abundance estimation methods. However, for RNA-Seq of a 76-nucleotide sequence, the results achieved by RSEM were similar to without applying abundance estimation methods, and were much better than with Sailfish. Furthermore, the researchers found that adding a poly-A tail increased alignment numbers, but did not improve normalization results.
|Spearman correlation results of eight non-abundance estimation normalization methods|
|Reads with length of 35 nucleotides, p-value < 2.2e-16|
|Reads with length of 76 nucleotides, p-value < 2.2e-16|