The reference annotations made for a genome sequence provide the framework for all subsequent analyses of the genome. Correct and complete annotation in addition to the underlying genomic sequence is particularly important when interpreting the results of RNA-seq experiments where short sequence reads are mapped against the genome and assigned to genes according to the annotation. Inconsistencies in annotations between the reference and the experimental system can lead to incorrect interpretation of the effect on RNA expression of an experimental treatment or mutation in the system under study. Until recently, the genome-wide annotation of 3′ untranslated regions received less attention than coding regions and the delineation of intron/exon boundaries.
In this paper, data produced for samples in Human, Chicken and A. thaliana by the novel single-molecule, strand-specific, Direct RNA Sequencing technology from Helicos Biosciences which locates 3′ polyadenylation sites to within +/− 2 nt, were combined with archival EST and RNA-Seq data.
Nine examples are illustrated where this combination of data allowed:
(1) gene and 3′ UTR re-annotation (including extension of one 3′ UTR by 5.9 kb);
(2) disentangling of gene expression in complex regions;
(3) clearer interpretation of small RNA expression and (4) identification of novel genes.
While the specific examples displayed here may become obsolete as genome sequences and their annotations are refined, the principles laid out in this paper will be of general use both to those annotating genomes and those seeking to interpret existing publicly available annotations in the context of their own experimental data.