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Correlation of RNA and protein levels

An important task for molecular biology is to establish whether transcript levels of a given gene can be used as proxies for the corresponding protein levels. This has huge implications for the use of transcriptomics and single-cell analysis to study human biology. Contrary to many earlier studies, the analyses using targeted proteomics and next-generation transcriptomics showed that transcript and protein levels in general correlate if a gene-specific RNA-to-protein (RTP) conversion factor is introduced. The results suggest that transcriptomics can be used to predict the relative levels of the corresponding protein, thus forming an attractive link between the field of genomics and proteomics.

Key publication

  • Edfors F et al., Gene-specific correlation of RNA and protein levels in human cells and tissues. Mol Syst Biol. (2016)
    PubMed: 27951527 DOI: 10.15252/msb.20167144

Other selected publications

  • Gry M et al., Correlations between RNA and protein expression profiles in 23 human cell lines. BMC Genomics. (2009)
    PubMed: 19660143 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2164-10-365

  • Geiger T et al., Initial quantitative proteomic map of 28 mouse tissues using the SILAC mouse. Mol Cell Proteomics. (2013)
    PubMed: 23436904 DOI: 10.1074/mcp.M112.024919

  • Lundberg E et al., Defining the transcriptome and proteome in three functionally different human cell lines. Mol Syst Biol. (2010)
    PubMed: 21179022 DOI: 10.1038/msb.2010.106

Figure legend: The correlation between levels of RNA and protein across tissues and cells. Adapted from Edfors et al. (2016).

Key facts

  • High genome-wide Pearson correlation between protein and RNA levels in cell lines and tissues (r = 0.9)
  • Data suggests that mRNA levels in general can be used as a proxy for protein levels
  • Transcriptomics forms an attractive link between the fields of genomics and proteomics