Phospho-RNA-seq: a modified small RNA-seq method that reveals circulating mRNA and lncRNA fragments as potential biomarkers in human plasma.

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Extracellular RNAs (exRNAs) in biofluids have attracted great interest as potential biomarkers. Although extracellular microRNAs in blood plasma are extensively characterized, extracellular messenger RNA (mRNA) and long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) studies are limited. We report that plasma contains fragmented mRNAs and lncRNAs that are missed by standard small RNA-seq protocols due to lack of 5' phosphate or presence of 3' phosphate. These fragments were revealed using a modified protocol ("phospho-RNA-seq") incorporating RNA treatment with T4-polynucleotide kinase, which we compared with standard small RNA-seq for sequencing synthetic RNAs with varied 5' and 3' ends, as well as human plasma exRNA Analyzing phospho-RNA-seq data using a custom, high-stringency bioinformatic pipeline, we identified mRNA/lncRNA transcriptome fingerprints in plasma, including tissue-specific gene sets. In a longitudinal study of hematopoietic stem cell transplant patients, bone marrow- and liver-enriched exRNA genes were tracked with bone marrow recovery and liver injury, respectively, providing proof-of-concept validation as a biomarker approach. By enabling access to an unexplored realm of mRNA and lncRNA fragments, phospho-RNA-seq opens up new possibilities for plasma transcriptomic biomarker development.
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RNA‐seq, cell‐free RNA, extracellular RNA, liquid biopsy