A Bayesian model selection approach for identifying differentially expressed transcripts from RNA sequencing data

Panagiotis Papastamoulis, Magnus Rattray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent advances in molecular biology allow the quantification of the transcriptome and scoring transcripts as differentially or equally expressed between two biological conditions. Although these two tasks are closely linked, the available inference methods treat them separately: a primary model is used to estimate expression and its output is post processed by using a differential expression model. In the paper, both issues are simultaneously addressed by proposing the joint estimation of expression levels and differential expression: the unknown relative abundance of each transcript can either be equal or not between two conditions. A hierarchical Bayesian model builds on the BitSeq framework and the posterior distribution of transcript expression and differential expression is inferred by using Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling. It is shown that the model proposed enjoys conjugacy for fixed dimension variables; thus the full conditional distributions are analytically derived. Two samplers are constructed, a reversible jump Markov chain Monte Carlo sampler and a collapsed Gibbs sampler, and the latter is found to perform better. A cluster representation of the aligned reads to the transcriptome is introduced, allowing parallel estimation of the marginal posterior distribution of subsets of transcripts under reasonable computing time. Under a fixed prior probability of differential expression the clusterwise sampler has the same marginal posterior distributions as the raw sampler, but a more general prior structure is also employed. The algorithm proposed is benchmarked against alternative methods by using synthetic data sets and applied to real RNA sequencing data. Source code is available on line from https://github.com/mqbssppe/cjBitSeq.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series C: Applied Statistics
Early online date7 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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