Differential Transcription Start Site Usage in Brain-related Samples
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RNA-Seq is an effective method to study the transcriptome, but specialized methods are required to identify 5' ends of transcripts. Several published strategies exist for this specific purpose, but their relative merits have not been systematically analyzed. Here, we directly compare the performance of six such methods - testing five with cellular RNA as well as a novel spike-in RNA assay that helps address interpretation challenges that arise from uncertainties in annotation or RNA processing. Using a single human RNA sample, we constructed and sequenced 18 libraries with these methods and one standard, control RNA-Seq library. We find that the CAGE method performed best for mRNA and that most of its unannotated peaks are supported by evidence from other genomic methods. We then applied CAGE to eight brain-related samples and revealed sample-specific transcription start site (TSS) usage as well as a transcriptome-wide shift in TSS usage between fetal and adult brain.