The predictive nature of transcript expression levels on protein expression in adult human brain

Amy L. Bauernfeind, Courtney C. Babbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Next generation sequencing methods are the gold standard for evaluating expression of the transcriptome. When determining the biological implications of such studies, the assumption is often made that transcript expression levels correspond to protein levels in a meaningful way. However, the strength of the overall correlation between transcript and protein expression is inconsistent, particularly in brain samples. Results: Following high-throughput transcriptomic (RNA-Seq) and proteomic (liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry) analyses of adult human brain samples, we compared the correlation in the expression of transcripts and proteins that support various biological processes, molecular functions, and that are located in different areas of the cell. Although most categories of transcripts have extremely weak predictive value for the expression of their associated proteins (R2 values of < 10%), transcripts coding for protein kinases and membrane-associated proteins, including those that are part of receptors or ion transporters, are among those that are most predictive of downstream protein expression levels. Conclusions: The predictive value of transcript expression for corresponding proteins is variable in human brain samples, reflecting the complex regulation of protein expression. However, we found that transcriptomic analyses are appropriate for assessing the expression levels of certain classes of proteins, including those that modify proteins, such as kinases and phosphatases, regulate metabolic and synaptic activity, or are associated with a cellular membrane. These findings can be used to guide the interpretation of gene expression results from primate brain samples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number322
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 24 2017


  • Chimpanzee
  • Gene
  • Proteomics
  • RNA-Seq


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