BACKGROUND - Complementary approaches to assaying global gene expression are needed to assess gene expression in regions that are poorly assayed by current methodologies. A key component of nearly all gene expression assays is the reverse transcription of transcribed sequences that has traditionally been performed by priming the poly-A tails on many of the transcribed genes in eukaryotes with oligo-dT, or by priming RNA indiscriminately with random hexamers. We designed an algorithm to find common sequence motifs that were present within most protein-coding genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and of Neurospora crassa, but that were not present within their ribosomal RNA or transfer RNA genes. We then experimentally tested whether degenerately priming these motifs with multi-targeted primers improved the accuracy and completeness of transcriptomic assays.
RESULTS - We discovered two multi-targeted primers that would prime a preponderance of genes in the genomes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Neurospora crassa while avoiding priming ribosomal RNA or transfer RNA. Examining the response of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to nitrogen deficiency and profiling Neurospora crassa early sexual development, we demonstrated that using multi-targeted primers in reverse transcription led to superior performance of microarray profiling and next-generation RNA tag sequencing. Priming with multi-targeted primers in addition to oligo-dT resulted in higher sensitivity, a larger number of well-measured genes and greater power to detect differences in gene expression.
CONCLUSIONS - Our results provide the most complete and detailed expression profiles of the yeast nitrogen starvation response and N. crassa early sexual development to date. Furthermore, our multi-targeting priming methodology for genome-wide gene expression assays provides selective targeting of multiple sequences and counter-selection against undesirable sequences, facilitating a more complete and precise assay of the transcribed sequences within the genome.