High-throughput transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) technology promises to discover novel protein-coding and non-coding transcripts, particularly the identification of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) from de novo sequencing data. This requires tools that are not restricted by prior gene annotations, genomic sequences and high-quality sequencing.
A team led by researchers at the Xidian University, present an alignment-free tool called PLEK (predictor of long non-coding RNAs and messenger RNAs based on an improved k-mer scheme), which uses a computational pipeline based on an improved k-mer scheme and a support vector machine (SVM) algorithm to distinguish lncRNAs from messenger RNAs (mRNAs), in the absence of genomic sequences or annotations. The performance of PLEK was evaluated on well-annotated mRNA and lncRNA transcripts. 10-fold cross-validation tests on human RefSeq mRNAs and GENCODE lncRNAs indicated that our tool could achieve accuracy of up to 95.6%. The researchers demonstrated the utility of PLEK on transcripts from other vertebrates using the model built from human datasets. PLEK attained >90% accuracy on most of these datasets. PLEK also performed well using a simulated dataset and two real de novo assembled transcriptome datasets (sequenced by PacBio and 454 platforms) with relatively high indel sequencing errors. In addition, PLEK is approximately eightfold faster than a newly developed alignment-free tool, named Coding-Non-Coding Index (CNCI), and 244 times faster than the most popular alignment-based tool, Coding Potential Calculator (CPC), in a single-threading running manner.
Availability – PLEK is open-source software and can be freely downloaded from https://sourceforge.net/projects/plek/files/