RNA silencing is a complex, highly conserved mechanism mediated by small RNAs (sRNAs), such as microRNAs (miRNAs), that is known to be involved in a diverse set of biological functions including development, pathogen control, genome maintenance and response to environmental change. Advances in next generation sequencing technologies are producing increasingly large numbers of sRNA reads per sample at a fraction of the cost of previous methods. However, many bioinformatics tools do not scale accordingly, are cumbersome, or require extensive support from bioinformatics experts. Therefore, researchers need user-friendly, robust tools, capable of not only processing large sRNA datasets in a reasonable time frame but also presenting the results in an intuitive fashion and visualizing sRNA genomic features. Herein, we present the UEA sRNA workbench, a suite of tools that is a successor to the web-based UEA sRNA Toolkit, but in downloadable format and with several enhanced and additional features.
The program and help pages are available at http://srna-workbench.cmp.uea.ac.uk.
Recently, high-throughput sequencing (HTS) has revealed compelling details about the small RNA (sRNA) population in eukaryotes. These 20 to 25 nt noncoding RNAs can influence gene expression by acting as guides for the sequence-specific regulatory mechanism known as RNA silencing. The increase in sequencing depth and number of samples per project enables a better understanding of the role sRNAs play by facilitating the study of expression patterns. However, the intricacy of the biological hypotheses coupled with a lack of appropriate tools often leads to inadequate mining of the available data and thus, an incomplete description of the biological mechanisms involved. To enable a comprehensive study of differential expression in sRNA data sets, we present a new interactive pipeline that guides researchers through the various stages of data preprocessing and analysis. This includes various tools, some of which we specifically developed for sRNA analysis, for quality checking and normalization of sRNA samples as well as tools for the detection of differentially expressed sRNAs and identification of the resulting expression patterns. The pipeline is available within the UEA sRNA Workbench, a user-friendly software package for the processing of sRNA data sets. We demonstrate the use of the pipeline on a H. sapiens data set; additional examples on a B. terrestris data set and on an A. thaliana data set are described in the Supplemental Information A comparison with existing approaches is also included, which exemplifies some of the issues that need to be addressed for sRNA analysis and how the new pipeline may be used to do this.
MicroRNAs are a class of ~21-22nt small RNAs which are excised from a stable hairpin-like secondary structure. They have important gene regulatory functions and are involved in many pathways including developmental timing, organogenesis and development in eukaryotes. There are several computational tools for miRNA detection from next-generation sequencing datasets. However, many of these tools suffer from high false positive and false negative rates. Here we present a novel miRNA prediction algorithm, miRCat2. miRCat2 incorporates a new entropy-based approach to detect miRNA loci, which is designed to cope with the high sequencing depth of current next-generation sequencing datasets. It has a user-friendly interface and produces graphical representations of the hairpin structure and plots depicting the alignment of sequences on the secondary structure.
We test miRCat2 on a number of animal and plant datasets and present a comparative analysis with miRCat, miRDeep2, miRPlant and miReap. We also use mutants in the miRNA biogenesis pathway to evaluate the predictions of these tools. Results indicate that miRCat2 has an improved accuracy compared with other methods tested. Moreover, miRCat2 predicts several new miRNAs that are differentially expressed in wild-type versus mutants in the miRNA biogenesis pathway.
miRCat2 is part of the UEA small RNA Workbench and is freely available from http://srna-workbench.cmp.uea.ac.uk/.
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Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
- The UEA sRNA workbench: a suite of tools for analysing and visualizing next generation sequencing microRNA and small RNA datasets.,
, Bioinformatics, 2012 Aug 1, Volume 28, Issue 15, p.2059-61, (2012)
- Comprehensive processing of high-throughput small RNA sequencing data including quality checking, normalization, and differential expression analysis using the UEA sRNA Workbench.,
, RNA, 2017 Jun, Volume 23, Issue 6, p.823-835, (2017)
- miRCat2: accurate prediction of plant and animal microRNAs from next-generation sequencing datasets.,
, Bioinformatics, 2017 Aug 15, Volume 33, Issue 16, p.2446-2454, (2017)