Fast Approximate Inference of Transcript Expression Levels from RNA-seq Data

Fast Approximate Inference of Transcript Expression Levels from RNA-seq Data

James Hensman, Peter Glaus, Antti Honkela, Magnus Rattray
(Submitted on 27 Aug 2013)

Motivation: The mapping of RNA-seq reads to their transcripts of origin is a fundamental task in transcript expression estimation and differential expression scoring. Where ambiguities in mapping exist due to transcripts sharing sequence, e.g. alternative isoforms or alleles, the problem becomes an instance of non-trivial probabilistic inference. Bayesian inference in such a problem is intractable and approximate methods must be used such as Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) and Variational Bayes. Standard implementations of these methods can be prohibitively slow for large datasets and complex gene models.
Results: We propose an approximate inference scheme based on Variational Bayes applied to an existing model of transcript expression inference from RNA-seq data. We apply recent advances in Variational Bayes algorithmics to improve the convergence of the algorithm beyond the standard variational expectation-maximisation approach. We apply our algorithm to simulated and biological datasets, demonstrating that the increase in speed requires only a small trade-off in accuracy of expression level estimation.
Availability: The methods were implemented in R and C++, and are available as part of the BitSeq project at this https URL The methods will be made available through the BitSeq Bioconductor package at the next stable release.

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