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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Jan;40(2):e13. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr1016. Epub 2011 Nov 21.

In vitro quantification of specific microRNA using molecular beacons.

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Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of non-coding RNAs, have become a major focus of molecular biology research because of their diverse genomic origin and ability to regulate an array of cellular processes. Although the biological functions of miRNA are yet to be fully understood, tissue levels of specific miRNAs have been shown to correlate with pathological development of disease. Here, we demonstrate that molecular beacons can readily distinguish mature- and pre-miRNAs, and reliably quantify miRNA expression. We found that molecular beacons with DNA, RNA and combined locked nucleic acid (LNA)-DNA backbones can all detect miRNAs of low (<1 nM) concentrations in vitro, with RNA beacons having the highest detection sensitivity. Furthermore, we found that molecular beacons have the potential to distinguish miRNAs that have slight variations in their nucleotide sequence. These results suggest that the molecular beacon-based approach to assess miRNA expression and distinguish mature and precursor miRNA species is quite robust, and has the promise for assessing miRNA levels in biological samples.

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