Each year, the number of published bulk and single-cell RNA-seq datasets is growing exponentially. Studies analyzing such data are commonly looking at gene-level differences, while the collected RNA-seq data inherently represents reads of transcript isoform sequences. Utilizing transcriptomic quantifiers, RNA-seq reads can be attributed to specific isoforms, allowing for analysis of transcript-level differences. A differential transcript usage (DTU) analysis is testing for proportional differences in a gene’s transcript composition, and has been of rising interest for many research questions, such as analysis of differential splicing or cell-type identification.


We present the R package DTUrtle, the first DTU analysis workflow for both bulk and single-cell RNA-seq datasets, and the first package to conduct a ‘classical’ DTU analysis in a single-cell context. DTUrtle extends established statistical frameworks, offers various result aggregation and visualization options and a novel detection probability score for tagged-end data. It has been successfully applied to bulk and single-cell RNA-seq data of human and mouse, confirming and extending key results. In addition, we present novel potential DTU applications like the identification of cell-type specific transcript isoforms as biomarkers.

Availability and implementation

The R package DTUrtle is available at with extensive vignettes and documentation at

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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