Identification of Circular RNAs using RNA Sequencing

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Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a class of non-coding RNAs involved in functions including micro-RNA (miRNA) regulation, mediation of protein-protein interactions, and regulation of parental gene transcription. In classical next generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), circRNAs are typically overlooked as a result of poly-A selection during construction of mRNA libraries, or are found at very low abundance, and are therefore difficult to isolate and detect. Here, a circRNA library construction protocol was optimized by comparing library preparation kits, pre-treatment options and various total RNA input amounts. Two commercially available whole transcriptome library preparation kits, with and without RNase R pre-treatment, and using variable amounts of total RNA input (1 to 4 µg), were tested. Lastly, multiple tissue types; including liver, lung, lymph node, and pancreas; as well as multiple brain regions; including the cerebellum, inferior parietal lobe, middle temporal gyrus, occipital cortex, and superior frontal gyrus; were compared to evaluate circRNA abundance across tissue types. Analysis of the generated RNA-seq data using six different circRNA detection tools (find_circ, CIRI, Mapsplice, KNIFE, DCC, and CIRCexplorer) revealed that a one stranded total RNA library preparation kit with RNase R pre-treatment and 4 µg RNA input is the optimal method for identifying the highest relative number of circRNAs. Consistent with previous findings, the highest enrichment of circRNAs was observed in brain tissues compared to other tissue types.