RNA sequencing has become an important method to perform hypothesis-free characterization of global gene expression. One of the limitations of RNA sequencing is that most sequence reads represent highly expressed transcripts, whereas low level transcripts are challenging to detect. To combine the benefits of traditional expression arrays with the advantages of RNA sequencing, we have used whole exome enrichment prior to sequencing of total RNA. We show that whole exome capture can be successfully applied to cDNA to study the transcriptional landscape in human tissues. By introducing the exome enrichment step, we are able to identify transcripts present at very low levels, which are below the level of detection in conventional RNA sequencing. Although the enrichment increases the ability to detect presence of transcripts, it also lowers the accuracy of quantification of expression levels. Our results yield a large number of novel exons and splice isoforms, suggesting that conventional RNA sequencing methods only detect a small fraction of the full transcript diversity. We propose that whole exome enrichment of RNA is a suitable strategy for genome-wide discovery of novel transcripts, alternative splice variants and fusion genes.
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