recount-brain: a curated repository of human brain RNA-seq datasets metadata

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The usability of publicly-available gene expression data is often limited by the availability of high-quality, standardized biological phenotype and experimental condition information (“metadata”). We released the recount2 project, which involved re-processing ∼70,000 samples in the Sequencing Read Archive (SRA), Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx), and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) projects. While samples from the latter two projects are well-characterized with extensive metadata, the ∼50,000 RNA-seq samples from SRA in recount2 are inconsistently annotated with metadata. Tissue type, sex, and library type can be estimated from the RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data itself. However, more detailed and harder to predict metadata, like age and diagnosis, must ideally be provided by labs that deposit the data. To facilitate more analyses within human brain tissue data, we have complemented phenotype predictions by manually constructing a uniformly-curated database of public RNA-seq samples present in SRA and recount2. We describe the reproducible curation process for constructing recount-brain that involves systematic review of the primary manuscript, which can serve as a guide to annotate other studies and tissues. We further expanded recount-brain by merging it with GTEx and TCGA brain samples as well as linking to controlled vocabulary terms for tissue, Brodmann area and disease. Furthermore, we illustrate how to integrate the sample metadata in recount-brain with the gene expression data in recount2 to perform differential expression analysis. We then provide three analysis examples involving modeling postmortem interval, glioblastoma, and meta-analyses across GTEx and TCGA. Overall, recount-brain facilitates expression analyses and improves their reproducibility as individual researchers do not have to manually curate the sample metadata. recount-brain is available via the add_metadata() function from the recount Bioconductor package at

bioRxiv 618025
Ashkaun Razmara
Ashkaun Razmara
JHBSPH MPH 2017-2018

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.