Complex alternative splicing patterns in hematopoietic cell subpopulations revealed by third-generation long reads.
Background: Alternative splicing expands the repertoire of gene functions and is a signature for different cell populations. Here we characterize the transcriptome of human bone marrow subpopulations including progenitor cells to understand their contribution to homeostasis and pathological conditions such as atherosclerosis and tumor metastasis. To obtain full-length transcript structures, we utilized long reads in addition to RNA-seq for estimating isoform diversity and abundance. Method: Freshly harvested, viable human bone marrow tissues were extracted from discarded harvesting equipment and separated into total bone marrow (total), lineage-negative (lin-) progenitor cells and differentiated cells (lin+) by magnetic bead sorting with antibodies to surface markers of hematopoietic cell lineages. Sequencing was done with SOLiD, Illumina HiSeq (100bp paired-end reads), and PacBio RS II (full-length cDNA library protocol for 1 – 6 kb libraries). Short reads were assembled using both Trinity for de novo assembly and Cufflinks for genome-guided assembly. Full-length transcript consensus sequences were obtained for the PacBio data using the RS_IsoSeq protocol from PacBios SMRTAnalysis software. Quantitation for each sample was done independently for each sequencing platform using Sailfish to obtain the TPM (transcripts per million) using k-mer matching. Results: PacBios long read sequencing technology is capable of sequencing full-length transcripts up to 10 kb and reveals heretofore-unseen isoform diversity and complexity within the hematopoietic cell populations. A comparison of sequencing depth and de novo transcript assembly with short read, second-generation sequencing reveals that, while short reads provide precision in determining portions of isoform structure and supporting larger 5 and 3 UTR regions, it fails in providing a complete structure especially when multiple isoforms are present at the same locus. Increased breadth of isoform complexity is revealed by long reads that permits further elaboration of full isoform diversity and specific isoform abundance within each separate cell population. Sorting the distribution of major and minor isoforms reveals a cell population-specific balance focused on distinct genome loci and shows how tissue specificity and diversity are modulated by alternative splicing.