Identification of protein-protected mRNA fragments and structured excised intron RNAs in human plasma by TGIRT-seq peak calling
Human plasma contains >40,000 different coding and non-coding RNAs that are potential biomarkers for human diseases. Here, we used thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptase sequencing (TGIRT-seq) combined with peak calling to simultaneously profile all RNA biotypes in apheresis-prepared human plasma pooled from healthy individuals. Extending previous TGIRT-seq analysis, we found that human plasma contains largely fragmented mRNAs from >19,000 protein-coding genes, abundant full-length, mature tRNAs and other structured small non-coding RNAs, and less abundant tRNA fragments and mature and pre-miRNAs. Many of the mRNA fragments identified by peak calling correspond to annotated protein-binding sites and/or have stable predicted secondary structures that could afford protection from plasma nucleases. Peak calling also identified novel repeat RNAs, miRNA-sized RNAs, and putatively structured intron RNAs of potential biological, evolutionary, and biomarker significance, including a family of full-length excised introns RNAs, subsets of which correspond to mirtron pre-miRNAs or agotrons. ### Competing Interest Statement Thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptase (TGIRT) enzymes and methods for their use are the subject of patents and patent applications that have been licensed by the University of Texas and East Tennessee State University to InGex, LLC. A.M.L., some former and present members of the Lambowitz laboratory, and the University of Texas are minority equity holders in InGex, LLC and receive royalty payments from the sale of TGIRT-enzymes and kits and from the sublicensing of intellectual property by InGex to other companies. A.M.L., J.Y., D.C.W. and another member of the Lambowitz laboratory are inventors on a patent application filed by the University of Texas at Austin for the use of full-length excised intron RNAs and intron RNA fragments as biomarkers. D.C.W. is currently an employee of QIAGEN.
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