Comparative evaluation for the globin gene depletion methods for mRNA sequencing using the whole blood-derived total RNAs

Jin Sung Jang, Brianna Berg, Eileen Holicky, Bruce Eckloff, Mark Mutawe, Minerva M. Carrasquillo, Nilüfer Ertekin-Taner, Julie M. Cuninngham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There are challenges in generating mRNA-Seq data from whole-blood derived RNA as globin gene and rRNA are frequent contaminants. Given the abundance of erythrocytes in whole blood, globin genes comprise some 80% or more of the total RNA. Therefore, depletion of globin gene RNA and rRNA are critical steps required to have adequate coverage of reads mapping to the reference transcripts and thus reduce the total cost of sequencing. In this study, we directly compared the performance of probe hybridization (GLOBINClear Kit and Globin-Zero Gold rRNA Removal Kit) and RNAse-H enzymatic depletion (NEBNext® Globin & rRNA Depletion Kit and Ribo-Zero Plus rRNA Depletion Kit) methods from 1 μg of whole blood-derived RNA on mRNA-Seq profiling. All RNA samples were treated with DNaseI for additional cleanup before the depletion step and were processed for poly-A selection for library generation. Results: Probe hybridization revealed a better overall performance than the RNAse-H enzymatic depletion method, detecting a higher number of genes and transcripts without 3′ region bias. After depletion, samples treated with probe hybridization showed globin genes at 0.5% (±0.6%) of the total mapped reads; the RNAse-H enzymatic depletion had 3.2% (±3.8%). Probe hybridization showed more junction reads and transcripts compared with RNAse-H enzymatic depletion and also had a higher correlation (R > 0.9) than RNAse-H enzymatic depletion (R > 0.85). Conclusion: In this study, our results showed that 1 μg of high-quality RNA from whole blood could be routinely used for transcriptional profiling analysis studies with globin gene and rRNA depletion pre-processing. We also demonstrated that the probe hybridization depletion method is better suited to mRNA sequencing analysis with minimal effect on RNA quality during depletion procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number890
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Globin gene depletion
  • Whole blood
  • mRNA-Seq
  • rRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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