A mixed model approach for joint genetic analysis of alternatively spliced transcript isoforms using RNA-Seq data

A mixed model approach for joint genetic analysis of alternatively spliced transcript isoforms using RNA-Seq data by Barbara Rakitsch, Christoph Lippert, Hande Topa, Karsten Borgwardt, Antti Honkela, Oliver Stegle, published on the pre-print server arXiv and profiled at Haldane’s Sieve blog in October 2012.

Abstract

RNA-Seq technology allows for studying the transcriptional state of the cell at an unprecedented level of detail. Beyond quantification of whole-gene expression, it is now possible to disentangle the abundance of individual alternatively spliced transcript isoforms of a gene. A central question is to understand the regulatory processes that lead to differences in relative abundance variation due to external and genetic factors. Here, we present a mixed model approach that allows for (i) joint analysis and genetic mapping of multiple transcript isoforms and (ii) mapping of isoform-specific effects. Central to our approach is to comprehensively model the causes of variation and correlation between transcript isoforms, including the genomic background and technical quantification uncertainty. As a result, our method allows to accurately test for shared as well as transcript-specific genetic regulation of transcript isoforms and achieves substantially improved calibration of these statistical tests. Experiments on genotype and RNA-Seq data from 126 human HapMap individuals demonstrate that our model can help to obtain a more fine-grained picture of the genetic basis of gene expression variation.