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Selective and flexible depletion of problematic sequences from RNA-seq libraries at the cDNA stage

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    • Publication Information:
      BioMed Central
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      Australian National University: ANU Digital Collections
    • Abstract:
      BACKGROUND A major hurdle to transcriptome profiling by deep-sequencing technologies is that abundant transcripts, such as rRNAs, can overwhelm the libraries, severely reducing transcriptome-wide coverage. Methods for depletion of such unwanted sequences typically require treatment of RNA samples prior to library preparation, are costly and not suited to unusual species and applications. Here we describe Probe-Directed Degradation (PDD), an approach that employs hybridisation to DNA oligonucleotides at the single-stranded cDNA library stage and digestion with Duplex-Specific Nuclease (DSN). RESULTS Targeting Saccharomyces cerevisiae rRNA sequences in Illumina HiSeq libraries generated by the split adapter method we show that PDD results in efficient removal of rRNA. The probes generate extended zones of depletion as a function of library insert size and the requirements for DSN cleavage. Using intact total RNA as starting material, probes can be spaced at the minimum anticipated library size minus 20 nucleotides to achieve continuous depletion. No off-target bias is detectable when comparing PDD-treated with untreated libraries. We further provide a bioinformatics tool to design suitable PDD probe sets. CONCLUSION We find that PDD is a rapid procedure that results in effective and specific depletion of unwanted sequences from deep-sequencing libraries. Because PDD acts at the cDNA stage, handling of fragile RNA samples can be minimised and it should further be feasible to remediate existing libraries. Importantly, PDD preserves the original RNA fragment boundaries as is required for nucleotide-resolution footprinting or base-cleavage studies. Finally, as PDD utilises unmodified DNA oligonucleotides it can provide a low-cost option for large-scale projects, or be flexibly customised to suit different depletion targets, sample types and organisms. ; This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP130101928) and a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (514904) awarded to TP. NES was supported by a Go8 European Fellowship. We acknowledge technical support from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Biomolecular Resource Facility.
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      © Archer et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014 This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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