Bayesian Modeling for Isoform Identification and Phenotype-specific Transcript Assembly

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Virginia Tech

The rapid development of biotechnology has enabled researchers to collect high-throughput data for studying various biological processes at the genomic level, transcriptomic level, and proteomic level. Due to the large noise in the data and the high complexity of diseases (such as cancer), it is a challenging task for researchers to extract biologically meaningful information that can help reveal the underlying molecular mechanisms. The challenges call for more efforts in developing efficient and effective computational methods to analyze the data at different levels so as to understand the biological systems in different aspects. In this dissertation research, we have developed novel Bayesian approaches to infer alternative splicing mechanisms in biological systems using RNA sequencing data.

Specifically, we focus on two research topics in this dissertation: isoform identification and phenotype-specific transcript assembly. For isoform identification, we develop a computational approach, SparseIso, to jointly model the existence and abundance of isoforms in a Bayesian framework. A spike-and-slab prior is incorporated into the model to enforce the sparsity of expressed isoforms. A Gibbs sampler is developed to sample the existence and abundance of isoforms iteratively. For transcript assembly, we develop a Bayesian approach, IntAPT, to assemble phenotype-specific transcripts from multiple RNA sequencing profiles. A two-layer Bayesian framework is used to model the existence of phenotype-specific transcripts and the transcript abundance in individual samples. Based on the hierarchical Bayesian model, a Gibbs sampling algorithm is developed to estimate the joint posterior distribution for phenotype-specific transcript assembly. The performances of our proposed methods are evaluated with simulation data, compared with existing methods and benchmarked with real cell line data. We then apply our methods on breast cancer data to identify biologically meaningful splicing mechanisms associated with breast cancer. For the further work, we will extend our methods for de novo transcript assembly to identify novel isoforms in biological systems; we will incorporate isoform-specific networks into our methods to better understand splicing mechanisms in biological systems.

Transcriptome Assembly, RNA-seq Data Analysis, Bayesian Inference, Gibbs Sampling, Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC)