Motivation: RNA-seq experiments are usually carried out in three or fewer replicates. In order to work well with so few samples, Differential Gene Expression (DGE) tools typically assume the form of the underlying gene expression distribution. In this paper, the statistical properties of gene expression from RNA-seq are investigated in the complex eukaryote, Arabidopsis thaliana, extending and generalizing the results of previous work in the simple eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Gierlinski et al. 2015; Schurch et al. 2016).
Results: We show that, consistent with the results in S. cerevisiae, more gene expression measurements in A. thaliana are consistent with being drawn from an underlying negative binomial distribution than either a log-normal distribution or a normal distribution, and that the size and complexity of the A. thaliana transcriptome does not influence the false positive rate performance of nine widely used DGE tools tested here. We therefore recommend the use of DGE tools that are based on the negative binomial distribution.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.