Global Identification and Characterization of Transcriptionally Active Regions in the Rice Genome

<div><p>Genome tiling microarray studies have consistently documented rich transcriptional activity beyond the annotated genes. However, systematic characterization and transcriptional profiling of the putative novel transcripts on the genome scale are still lacking. We report here the identification of 25,352 and 27,744 transcriptionally active regions (TARs) not encoded by annotated exons in the rice (<em>Oryza. sativa</em>) subspecies <em>japonica</em> and <em>indica</em>, respectively. The non-exonic TARs account for approximately two thirds of the total TARs detected by tiling arrays and represent transcripts likely conserved between <em>japonica</em> and <em>indica</em>. Transcription of 21,018 (83%) <em>japonica</em> non-exonic TARs was verified through expression profiling in 10 tissue types using a re-array in which annotated genes and TARs were each represented by five independent probes. Subsequent analyses indicate that about 80% of the <em>japonica</em> TARs that were not assigned to annotated exons can be assigned to various putatively functional or structural elements of the rice genome, including splice variants, uncharacterized portions of incompletely annotated genes, antisense transcripts, duplicated gene fragments, and potential non-coding RNAs. These results provide a systematic characterization of non-exonic transcripts in rice and thus expand the current view of the complexity and dynamics of the rice transcriptome.</p></div>