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Full-length transcript sequencing of human and mouse identifies widespread isoform diversity and alternative splicing in the cerebral cortex

By Aaron Richard Jeffries, Szi Kay Leung, Isabel Castanho, Karen Moore, Jonathan Davies, Emma Dempster, Nicholas J. Bray, Paul O'Neill, Elizabeth J Tseng, Zeshan Ahmed, David Collier, Shyam Prabhakar, Leonard Scalkwyk, Mike Gandal, Eilis Hannon, Jonathan Mill

Posted 15 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.14.339200

Alternative splicing is a post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism producing multiple distinct mRNA molecules from a single pre-mRNA. Alternative splicing has a prominent role in the central nervous system, impacting neurodevelopment and various neuronal functions as well as being increasingly implicated in brain disorders including autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. Standard short-read RNA-Seq approaches only sequence fragments of the mRNA molecule, making it difficult to accurately characterize the true nature of RNA isoform diversity. In this study, we used long-read isoform sequencing (Iso-Seq) to generate full-length cDNA sequences and map transcript diversity in the human and mouse cerebral cortex. We identify widespread RNA isoform diversity amongst expressed genes in the cortex, including many novel transcripts not present in existing genome annotations. Alternative splicing events were found to make a major contribution to RNA isoform diversity in the cortex, with intron retention being a relatively common event associated with nonsense-mediated decay and reduced transcript expression. Of note, we found evidence for transcription from novel (unannotated genes) and fusion events between neighbouring genes. Although global patterns of RNA isoform diversity were found to be generally similar between human and mouse cortex, we identified some notable exceptions. We also identified striking developmental changes in transcript diversity, with differential transcript usage between human adult and fetal cerebral cortex. Finally, we found evidence for extensive isoform diversity in genes associated with autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. Our data confirm the importance of alternative splicing in the cerebral cortex, dramatically increasing transcriptional diversity and representing an important mechanism underpinning gene regulation in the brain. We provide this transcript level data as a resource to the scientific community. ### Competing Interest Statement Z.A. and D.A.C. were full-time employees of Eli Lilly & Company Ltd, and E.T a full-time employee of Pacific Biosciences at the time this work was performed. None of the other authors have any competing interests relevant to this project.

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