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Background RNA-sequencing of patient biosamples is a promising approach to delineate the impact of genomic variants on splicing, but variable gene expression between tissues complicates selection of appropriate tissues. Relative expression level is often used as a metric to predict RNA-sequencing utility. Here, we describe a gene- and tissue-specific metric to inform the feasibility of RNA-sequencing, overcoming some issues with using expression values alone. Results We derive a novel metric, Minimum Required Sequencing Depth (MRSD), for all genes across three human biosamples (whole blood, lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) and skeletal muscle). MRSD estimates the depth of sequencing required from RNA-sequencing to achieve user-specified sequencing coverage of a gene, transcript or group of genes of interest. MRSD predicts levels of splice junction coverage with high precision (90.1-98.2%) and overcomes transcript region-specific sequencing biases. Applying MRSD scoring to established disease gene panels shows that LCLs are the optimum source of RNA, of the three investigated biosamples, for 69.3% of gene panels. Our approach demonstrates that up to 59.4% of variants of uncertain significance in ClinVar predicted to impact splicing could be functionally assayed by RNA-sequencing in at least one of the investigated biosamples. Conclusions We demonstrate the power of MRSD as a metric to inform choice of appropriate biosamples for the functional assessment of splicing aberrations. We apply MRSD in the context of Mendelian genetic disorders and illustrate its benefits over expression-based approaches. We anticipate that the integration of MRSD into clinical pipelines will improve variant interpretation and, ultimately, diagnostic yield.

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kConFab Investigators