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Bioinformatics. 2010 Sep 15;26(18):i426-32. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btq363.

Classification of ncRNAs using position and size information in deep sequencing data.

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  • 1Institut für Informatik, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, München, Germany.



Small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) play important roles in various cellular functions in all clades of life. With next-generation sequencing techniques, it has become possible to study ncRNAs in a high-throughput manner and by using specialized algorithms ncRNA classes such as miRNAs can be detected in deep sequencing data. Typically, such methods are targeted to a certain class of ncRNA. Many methods rely on RNA secondary structure prediction, which is not always accurate and not all ncRNA classes are characterized by a common secondary structure. Unbiased classification methods for ncRNAs could be important to improve accuracy and to detect new ncRNA classes in sequencing data.


Here, we present a scoring system called ALPS (alignment of pattern matrices score) that only uses primary information from a deep sequencing experiment, i.e. the relative positions and lengths of reads, to classify ncRNAs. ALPS makes no further assumptions, e.g. about common structural properties in the ncRNA class and is nevertheless able to identify ncRNA classes with high accuracy. Since ALPS is not designed to recognize a certain class of ncRNA, it can be used to detect novel ncRNA classes, as long as these unknown ncRNAs have a characteristic pattern of deep sequencing read lengths and positions. We evaluate our scoring system on publicly available deep sequencing data and show that it is able to classify known ncRNAs with high sensitivity and specificity.


Calculated pattern matrices of the datasets hESC and EB are available at the project web site http://www.bio.ifi.lmu.de/ALPS. An implementation of the described method is available upon request from the authors.


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