Reliability and reproducibility of transcriptomics-based studies are dependent on RNA integrity. Microfluidics-based techniques targeting rRNA are currently the only approaches to evaluate RNA integrity. However, the relationship between rRNA and mRNA integrity is unknown. Here we present a new integrity index, the Ratio amplicon, Ramp, to monitor mRNA integrity based on the differential amplification of RT-Q-PCR amplicons of the glutamine-synthetase A (glnA) transcript. We showed, in a suite of experimental degradations of RNA extracted from sediment, that while the RIN generally reflected the degradation status of RNA the Ramp mapped mRNA degradation better. Furthermore, we examined the effect of degradation on transcript community structure byamplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA, amoA and glnA transcripts. We successful sequenced transcripts for all three targets even from highly-degraded RNA samples. While RNA degradation changed the community structure of the mRNA profiles, no changes were observed for the 16S rRNA transcripts profiles. Since both RT-Q-PCR and sequencing results were obtained, even from highly degraded samples, we strongly recommend evaluating RNA integrity prior to downstream processing to ensure meaningful results. For this both the RIN and Ramp are useful, with the Ramp better evaluating mRNA integrity in this study.

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