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Bioinformatics. 2019 Jan 12. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btz008. [Epub ahead of print]

Characterization and identification of long non-coding RNAs based on feature relationship.

Wang G1,2,3, Yin H1,2,3, Li B4, Yu C1,2,3, Wang F1,2, Xu X1,2,3, Cao J1,2,3, Bao Y1,2, Wang L5, Abbasi AA6, Bajic VB7, Ma L1,2, Zhang Z1,2,3.

Author information

CAS Key Laboratory of Genome Sciences and Information, Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
BIG Data Center, Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut, United States.
Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, United States.
National Center for Bioinformatics, Programme of Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC), Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering Division (CEMSE), Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.



The significance of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in many biological processes and diseases has gained intense interests over the past several years. However, computational identification of lncRNAs in a wide range of species remains challenging; it requires prior knowledge of well-established sequences and annotations or species-specific training data, but the reality is that only a limited number of species have high-quality sequences and annotations.


Here we first characterize lncRNAs by contrast to protein-coding RNAs based on feature relationship and find that the feature relationship between ORF (open reading frame) length and GC content presents universally substantial divergence in lncRNAs and protein-coding RNAs, as observed in a broad variety of species. Based on the feature relationship, accordingly, we further present LGC, a novel algorithm for identifying lncRNAs that is able to accurately distinguish lncRNAs from protein-coding RNAs in a cross-species manner without any prior knowledge. As validated on large-scale empirical datasets, comparative results show that LGC outperforms existing algorithms by achieving higher accuracy, well-balanced sensitivity and specificity, and is robustly effective (>90% accuracy) in discriminating lncRNAs from protein-coding RNAs across diverse species that range from plants to mammals. To our knowledge, this study, for the first time, differentially characterizes lncRNAs and protein-coding RNAs based on feature relationship, which is further applied in computational identification of lncRNAs. Taken together, our study represents a significant advance in characterization and identification of lncRNAs and LGC thus bears broad potential utility for computational analysis of lncRNAs in a wide range of species.


LGC web server is publicly available at The scripts and data can be downloaded at

Supplementary information:

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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