A transcriptome is the complete RNA content of a cell, tissue or organism. Studying transcriptional changes can assist in understanding the molecular basis of development, function and disease. RNA is a unique substance because it can transfer information (for example messenger RNA), act as a molecular machine (for example ribosomal RNA), and can vary considerably in both quantity and type between biological states. RNA also often differs from its DNA template because it is post ‐ transcriptionally altered by methods such alternative splicing and RNA ‐ editing. It is not surprising then, as transcriptomes are studied in more detail, an enormous amount of complexity is being uncovered, much of which remains very poorly characterised or understood.
RNA ‐ sequencing (RNA ‐ seq) is the application of second generation sequencing to study RNA. This technology has tremendous power to snapshot a transcriptome, and through the use of bioinformatics we can piece together a picture of the original RNA state, from individual nucleotide differences to entire cellular reprogramming events. In this talk, I will introduce RNA ‐ seq and relevant accompanying bioinformatic analysis principles, and illustrate using examples the wide variety of uses and research questions that this technology can address