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RNA. 2008 May;14(5):844-52. doi: 10.1261/rna.939908. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

Normalization of microRNA expression levels in quantitative RT-PCR assays: identification of suitable reference RNA targets in normal and cancerous human solid tissues.

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Asuragen, Inc., Austin, Texas 78744, USA.


Proper normalization is a critical but often an underappreciated aspect of quantitative gene expression analysis. This study describes the identification and characterization of appropriate reference RNA targets for the normalization of microRNA (miRNA) quantitative RT-PCR data. miRNA microarray data from dozens of normal and disease human tissues revealed ubiquitous and stably expressed normalization candidates for evaluation by qRT-PCR. miR-191 and miR-103, among others, were found to be highly consistent in their expression across 13 normal tissues and five pair of distinct tumor/normal adjacent tissues. These miRNAs were statistically superior to the most commonly used reference RNAs used in miRNA qRT-PCR experiments, such as 5S rRNA, U6 snRNA, or total RNA. The most stable normalizers were also highly conserved across flash-frozen and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded lung cancer tumor/NAT sample sets, resulting in the confirmation of one well-documented oncomir (let-7a), as well as the identification of novel oncomirs. These findings constitute the first report describing the rigorous normalization of miRNA qRT-PCR data and have important implications for proper experimental design and accurate data interpretation.

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