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Bonfert, Thomas; Friedel, Caroline C. (2017): Prediction of Poly(A) Sites by Poly(A) Read Mapping.
In: PLOS One 12(1), e0170914


RNA-seq reads containing part of the poly(A) tail of transcripts (denoted as poly(A) reads) provide the most direct evidence for the position of poly(A) sites in the genome. However, due to reduced coverage of poly(A) tails by reads, poly(A) reads are not routinely identified during RNA-seq mapping. Nevertheless, recent studies for several herpesviruses successfully employed mapping of poly(A) reads to identify herpesvirus poly(A) sites using different strategies and customized programs. To more easily allow such analyses without requiring additional programs, we integrated poly(A) read mapping and prediction of poly(A) sites into our RNA-seq mapping program ContextMap 2. The implemented approach essentially generalizes previously used poly(A) read mapping approaches and combines them with the context-based approach of ContextMap 2 to take into account information provided by other reads aligned to the same location. Poly(A) read mapping using ContextMap 2 was evaluated on real-life data from the ENCODE project and compared against a competing approach based on transcriptome assembly (KLEAT). This showed high positive predictive value for our approach, evidenced also by the presence of poly(A) signals, and considerably lower runtime than KLEAT. Although sensitivity is low for both methods, we show that this is in part due to a high extent of spurious results in the gold standard set derived from RNAPET data. Sensitivity improves for poly(A) sites of known transcripts or determined with a more specific poly(A) sequencing protocol and increases with read coverage on transcript ends. Finally, we illustrate the usefulness of the approach in a high read coverage scenario by a re-analysis of published data for herpes simplex virus 1. Thus, with current trends towards increasing sequencing depth and read length, poly(A) read mapping will prove to be increasingly useful and can now be performed automatically during RNA-seq mapping with ContextMap 2.