Genes, Behavior, and Next-Generation RNA Sequencing

Advances in next-generation sequencing suggest that RNA-Seq is poised to supplant microarray-based approaches for transcriptome analysis. This article briefly reviews the use of microarrays in the brain-behavior context and then illustrates why RNA-Seq is a superior strategy. Compared with microarrays, RNA-Seq has a greater dynamic range, detects both coding and non-coding RNAs, is superior for gene network construction, detects alternative spliced transcripts, detects allele specific expression and can be used to extract genotype information, e.g., non-synonymous coding single nucleotide polymorphisms.

Examples of where RNA-Seq has been used to assess brain gene expression are provided. Despite the advantages of RNA-Seq, some disadvantages remain. These include the high cost of RNA-Seq and the computational complexities associated with data analysis. RNA-Seq embraces the complexity of the transcriptome and provides a mechanism to understand the underlying regulatory code; the potential to inform the brain-behavior relationship is substantial.

  • Hitzemann R, Bottomly D, Darakjian P, Walter N, Iancu O, Searles R, Wilmot B, McWeeney S. (2012) Genes, Behavior, and Next-Generation RNA Sequencing. Genes Brain Behav [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]