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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 18;9(8):e104567. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104567. eCollection 2014.

Tandem RNA chimeras contribute to transcriptome diversity in human population and are associated with intronic genetic variants.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory - European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Hinxton, United Kingdom.
Department of Genetic Medicine and Development, University of Geneva Medical School, Geneva, Switzerland; Institute for Genetics and Genomics in Geneva (iG3), University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Geneva, Switzerland.
New York Genome Center, New York, New York, United States of America.


Chimeric RNAs originating from two or more different genes are known to exist not only in cancer, but also in normal tissues, where they can play a role in human evolution. However, the exact mechanism of their formation is unknown. Here, we use RNA sequencing data from 462 healthy individuals representing 5 human populations to systematically identify and in depth characterize 81 RNA tandem chimeric transcripts, 13 of which are novel. We observe that 6 out of these 81 chimeras have been regarded as cancer-specific. Moreover, we show that a prevalence of long introns at the fusion breakpoint is associated with the chimeric transcripts formation. We also find that tandem RNA chimeras have lower abundances as compared to their partner genes. Finally, by combining our results with genomic data from the same individuals we uncover intronic genetic variants associated with the chimeric RNA formation. Taken together our findings provide an important insight into the chimeric transcripts formation and open new avenues of research into the role of intronic genetic variants in post-transcriptional processing events.

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