Real-time PCR quantification of precursor and mature microRNA

Methods. 2008 Jan;44(1):31-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2007.09.006.


microRNAs (miRNAs) are challenging molecules to amplify by PCR because the miRNA precursor consists of a stable hairpin and the mature miRNA is roughly the size of a standard PCR primer. Despite these difficulties, successful real-time RT-PCR technologies have been developed to amplify and quantify both the precursor and mature microRNA. An overview of real-time PCR technologies developed by us to detect precursor and mature microRNAs is presented here. Protocols describe presentation of the data using relative (comparative C(T)) and absolute (standard curve) quantification. Real-time PCR assays were used to measure the time course of precursor and mature miR-155 expression in monocytes stimulated by lipopolysaccharide. Protocols are provided to configure the assays as low density PCR arrays for high throughput gene expression profiling. By profiling over 200 precursor and mature miRNAs in HL60 cells induced to differentiate with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, it was possible to identify miRNAs who's processing is regulated during differentiation. Real-time PCR has become the gold standard of nucleic acid quantification due to the specificity and sensitivity of the PCR. Technological advancements have allowed for quantification of miRNA that is of comparable quality to more traditional RNAs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA Precursors / analysis*
  • RNA Precursors / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA Precursors
  • mirnlet7 microRNA, human