Evolinc: A tool for the identification and evolutionary comparison of long intergenic non-coding RNAs

Andrew D.L. Nelson, Upendra K. Devisetty, Kyle Palos, Asher K. Haug-Baltzell, Eric Lyons, Mark A. Beilstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) are an abundant and functionally diverse class of eukaryotic transcripts. Reported lincRNA repertoires in mammals vary, but are commonly in the thousands to tens of thousands of transcripts, covering ~90% of the genome. In addition to elucidating function, there is particular interest in understanding the origin and evolution of lincRNAs. Aside from mammals, lincRNA populations have been sparsely sampled, precluding evolutionary analyses focused on their emergence and persistence. Here we present Evolinc, a two-module pipeline designed to facilitate lincRNA discovery and characterize aspects of lincRNA evolution. The first module (Evolinc-I) is a lincRNA identification workflow that also facilitates downstream differential expression analysis and genome browser visualization of identified lincRNAs. The second module (Evolinc-II) is a genomic and transcriptomic comparative analysis workflow that determines the phylogenetic depth to which a lincRNA locus is conserved within a user-defined group of related species. Here we validate lincRNA catalogs generated with Evolinc-I against previously annotated Arabidopsis and human lincRNA data. Evolinc-I recapitulated earlier findings and uncovered an additional 70 Arabidopsis and 43 human lincRNAs. We demonstrate the usefulness of Evolinc-II by examining the evolutionary histories of a public dataset of 5,361 Arabidopsis lincRNAs. We used Evolinc-II to winnow this dataset to 40 lincRNAs conserved across species in Brassicaceae. Finally, we show how Evolinc-II can be used to recover the evolutionary history of a known lincRNA, the human telomerase RNA (TERC). These latter analyses revealed unexpected duplication events as well as the loss and subsequent acquisition of a novel TERC locus in the lineage leading to mice and rats. The Evolinc pipeline is currently integrated in CyVerse's Discovery Environment and is free for use by researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 15 2017


  • Comparative genomics
  • Comparative transcriptomics
  • Evolution
  • LincRNAs
  • Molecular
  • Pipeline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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