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Detection of circulating extracellular mRNAs by modified small RNA-sequencing analysis

By Kemal M. Akat, Youngmin A. Lee, Arlene Hurley, Pavel Morozov, Klaas E.A. Max, Miguel Brown, Kimberly Bogardus, Anuoluwapo Sopeyin, Kai Hildner, Thomas Diacovo, Markus F. Neurath, Martin Borggrefe, Thomas Tuschl

Posted 31 Dec 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/507681 (published DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.127317)

Extracellular mRNAs (ex-mRNAs) potentially supersede extracellular miRNAs (ex-miRNAs) and other RNA classes as biomarkers. Here, we present a comprehensive extracellular RNA (exRNA) study in human blood circulation based on conventional small RNA-sequencing (sRNA-seq) and sRNA-seq after T4 polynucleotide kinase (PNK) end-treatment of total exRNA isolated from serum and platelet-poor EDTA, ACD, and heparin plasma. Applying strict criteria for read mapping and annotation, we found that compared to conventional sRNA-seq PNK-treatment increased the detection of informative ex-mRNAs reads up to 50-fold. Based on captured ex-mRNAs from healthy individuals, we concluded that the exRNA pool is dominated by hematopoietic cells and platelets, with additional contribution from the liver. About 60% of the 15- to 42-nt long reads originated from the coding sequences, in a pattern reminiscent of ribosome-profiling studies for high abundance transcripts. Blood sample type had a considerable influence on the exRNA profile. The number of detected distinct ex-mRNA transcripts ranged from on average ~350 to 1100 in the different plasma types. In serum, additional transcripts from neutrophils and hematopoietic cells increased this number to ~2300. For EDTA and ACD, in particular, we found evidence of destabilization of mRNA and non-coding RNA ribonucleoprotein complexes. In a proof-of-concept study, we compared patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) to healthy controls. The improved tissue resolution of ex-mRNAs after PNK-treatment enabled us to detect a neutrophil-signature in ACS that escaped detection in an ex-miRNA analysis. Thus, ex mRNAs provide superior resolution for the study of exRNA changes in vivo and ex vivo. They can be readily studied by sRNA-seq after T4 PNK end-treatment.

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