The study of RNA has been dramatically improved by the introduction of Next Generation Sequencing platforms allowing massive and cheap sequencing of selected RNA fractions, also providing information on strand orientation (RNA-Seq). The complexity of transcriptomes and of their regulative pathways make RNA-Seq one of most complex field of NGS applications, addressing several aspects of the expression process (e.g. identification and quantification of expressed genes and transcripts, alternative splicing and polyadenylation, fusion genes and trans-splicing, post-transcriptional events, etc.).
In order to provide researchers with an effective and friendly resource for analyzing RNA-Seq data, researchers from the Inter-University Consortium (CINECA) have developed RAP (RNA-Seq Analysis Pipeline), a cloud computing web application implementing a complete but modular analysis workflow. This pipeline integrates both state-of-the-art bioinformatics tools for RNA-Seq analysis and in-house developed scripts to offer to the user a comprehensive strategy for data analysis. RAP is able to perform quality checks (adopting FastQC and NGS QC Toolkit), identify and quantify expressed genes and transcripts (with Tophat, Cufflinks and HTSeq), detect alternative splicing events (using SpliceTrap) and chimeric transcripts (with ChimeraScan). This pipeline is also able to identify splicing junctions and constitutive or alternative polyadenylation sites (implementing custom analysis modules) and call for statistically significant differences in genes and transcripts expression, splicing pattern and polyadenylation site usage (using Cuffdiff2 and DESeq).
Schematic description of RAP workflow
Through a user friendly web interface, the RAP workflow can be suitably customized by the user and it is automatically executed on the CINECA cloud computing environment. This strategy allows to access to bioinformatics tools and computational resources without specific bioinformatics and IT skills. RAP provides a set of tabular and graphical results that can be helpful to browse, filter and export analyzed data, according to the user needs.
Availability – RAP is freely available to academic users at http://bioinformatics.cineca.it/rap/