PennDiff: Detecting differential alternative splicing and transcription by RNA sequencing

Yu Hu, Jennie Lin, Jian Hu, Gang Hu, Kui Wang, Hanrui Zhang, Muredach P. Reilly, Mingyao Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Motivation: Alternative splicing and alternative transcription are a major mechanism for generating transcriptome diversity. Differential alternative splicing and transcription (DAST), which describe different usage of transcript isoforms across different conditions, can complement differential expression in characterizing gene regulation. However, the analysis of DAST is challenging because only a small fraction of RNA-seq reads is informative for isoforms. Several methods have been developed to detect exon-based and gene-based DAST, but they suffer from power loss for genes with many isoforms. Results: We present PennDiff, a novel statistical method that makes use of information on gene structures and pre-estimated isoform relative abundances, to detect DAST from RNA-seq data. PennDiff has several advantages. First, grouping exons avoids multiple testing for 'exons' originated from the same isoform(s). Second, it utilizes all available reads in exon-inclusion level estimation, which is different from methods that only use junction reads. Third, collapsing isoforms sharing the same alternative exons reduces the impact of isoform expression estimation uncertainty. PennDiff is able to detect DAST at both exon and gene levels, thus offering more flexibility than existing methods. Simulations and analysis of a real RNA-seq dataset indicate that PennDiff has well-controlled type I error rate, and is more powerful than existing methods including DEXSeq, rMATS, Cuffdiff, IUTA and SplicingCompass. As the popularity of RNA-seq continues to grow, we expect PennDiff to be useful for diverse transcriptomics studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2384-2391
Number of pages8
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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