MicroRNA fate upon targeting with anti-miRNA oligonucleotides as revealed by an improved Northern-blot-based method for miRNA detection.

Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
RNA (Impact Factor: 4.62). 03/2011; 17(5):933-43. DOI: 10.1261/rna.2533811
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs involved in fine-tuning of gene regulation. Antisense oligonucleotides (ONs) are promising tools as anti-miRNA (anti-miR) agents toward therapeutic applications and to uncover miRNA function. Such anti-miR ONs include 2'-O-methyl (OMe), cationic peptide nucleic acids like K-PNA-K3, and locked nucleic acid (LNA)-based anti-miRs such as LNA/DNA or LNA/OMe. Northern blotting is a widely used and robust technique to detect miRNAs. However, miRNA quantification in the presence of anti-miR ONs has proved to be challenging, due to detection artifacts, which has led to poor understanding of miRNA fate upon anti-miR binding. Here we show that anti-miR ON bound to miR-122 can prevent the miRNA from being properly precipitated into the purified RNA fraction using the standard RNA extraction protocol (TRI-Reagent), yielding an RNA extract that does not reflect the real cellular levels of the miRNA. An increase in the numbers of equivalents of isopropanol during the precipitation step leads to full recovery of the targeted miRNA back into the purified RNA extract. Following our improved protocol, we demonstrate by Northern blotting, in conjunction with a PNA decoy strategy and use of high denaturing PAGE, that high-affinity anti-miRs (K-PNA-K3, LNA/DNA, and LNA/OMe) sequester miR-122 without causing miRNA degradation, while miR-122 targeting with a lower-affinity anti-miR (OMe) seems to promote degradation of the miRNA. The technical issues explored in this work will have relevance for other hybridization-based techniques for miRNA quantification in the presence of anti-miR ONs.

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