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Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) comprises at least 90% of total RNA extracted from mammalian tissue or cell line samples. Informative transcriptional profiling using massively parallel sequencing technologies requires either enrichment of mature poly-adenylated transcripts or targeted depletion of the rRNA fraction. The latter method is of particular interest because it is compatible with degraded samples such as those extracted from FFPE and also captures transcripts that are not poly-adenylated such as some noncoding RNAs. Here we provide a cross-site study that evaluates the performance of ribosomal RNA removal kits from Illumina, Takara/Clontech, Kapa Biosystems, Lexogen, New England Biolabs and Qiagen on intact and degraded RNA samples. We find that all of the kits are capable of performing significant ribosomal depletion, though there are differences in their ease of use. All kits were able to remove ribosomal RNA to below 20% with intact RNA and identify ~14,000 protein coding genes from the Universal Human Reference RNA sample at >1FPKM. Analysis of differentially detected genes between kits suggests that transcript length may be a key factor in library production efficiency. These results provide a roadmap for labs on the strengths of each of these methods and how best to utilize them.

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