Small non-coding RNAs have been significantly recognized as the key modulators in many biological processes, and are emerging as promising biomarkers for several diseases. These RNA species are transcribed in cells and can be packaged in extracellular vesicles, which are small vesicles released from many biotypes, and are involved in intercellular communication. Currently, the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology for high-throughput profiling has further advanced the biological insights of non-coding RNA on a genome-wide scale and has become the preferred approach for the discovery and quantification of non-coding RNA species. Despite the routine practice of NGS, the processing of large data sets poses difficulty for analysis before conducting downstream experiments. Often, the current analysis tools are designed for specific RNA species, such as microRNA, and are limited in flexibility for modifying parameters for optimization. An analysis tool that allows for maximum control of different software is essential for drawing concrete conclusions for differentially expressed transcripts.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne have developed a one-touch integrated small RNA analysis pipeline (iSRAP) research tool that is composed of widely used tools for rapid profiling of small RNAs. The performance test of iSRAP using publicly and in-house available data sets shows its ability of comprehensive profiling of small RNAs of various classes, and analysis of differentially expressed small RNAs. iSRAP offers comprehensive analysis of small RNA sequencing data that leverage informed decisions on the downstream analyses of small RNA studies, including extracellular vesicles such as exosomes.
A schematic diagram of iSRAP workflow. The analysis steps involve pre-processing (sequence trimming and alignment), alignment and data quality check, and differential expression profiling. Input files are either BAM alignment or raw FASTQ sequencing data. iSRAP will determine the analysis steps required for raw sequence or alignment files. Different types of tabular and graphical outputs are generated automatically in iSRAP. The solid arrow represents the flow of the analysis. The computational tasks and analysis tools are, respectively, underlined and bolded.