Indexed on: 09 Nov '11Published on: 09 Nov '11Published in: Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE
microRNAs (miRNAs) are a large family of ˜ 22 nucleotides (nt) long RNA molecules that are widely expressed in eukaryotes (1). Complex genomes encode at least hundreds of miRNAs, which primarily inhibit the expression of a vast number of target genes post-transcriptionally (2, 3). miRNAs control a broad range of biological processes (1). In addition, altered miRNA expression has been associated with human diseases such as cancers, and miRNAs may serve as biomarkers for diseases and prognosis (4, 5). It is important, therefore, to understand the expression and functions of miRNAs under many different conditions. Three major approaches have been employed to profile miRNA expression: real-time PCR, microarray, and deep sequencing. The technique of miRNA microarray has the advantage of being high-throughput, generally less expensive, and most of the experimental and analysis steps can be carried out in a molecular biology laboratory at most universities, medical schools and associated hospitals. Here, we describe a method for performing custom miRNA microarray experiments. A miRNA probe set will be printed on glass slides to produce miRNA microarrays. RNA is isolated using a method or reagent that preserves small RNA species, and then labeled with a fluorescence dye. As a control, reference DNA oligonucleotides corresponding to a subset of miRNAs are also labeled with a different fluorescence dye. The reference DNA will serve to demonstrate the quality of the slide and hybridization and will also be used for data normalization. The RNA and DNA are mixed and hybridized to a microarray slide containing probes for most of the miRNAs in the database. After washing, the slide is scanned to obtain images, and intensities of the individual spots quantified. These raw signals will be further processed and analyzed as the expression data of the corresponding miRNAs. Microarray slides can be stripped and regenerated to reduce the cost of microarrays and to enhance the consistency of microarray experiments. The same principles and procedures are applicable to other types of custom microarray experiments.