Trends in microRNA detection

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2009 Jun;394(4):1109-16. doi: 10.1007/s00216-009-2744-6. Epub 2009 Apr 15.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, approximately 22 nucleotide length RNAs that perform gene regulation. Recently, miRNA has been shown to be linked with the onset of cancer and other diseases based on miRNA expression levels. It is important, therefore, to understand miRNA function as it pertains to disease onset; however, in order to fully understand miRNA's role in a disease, it is necessary to detect the expression levels of these small molecules. The most widely used miRNA detection method is Northern blotting, which is considered as the standard of miRNA detection methods. This method, however, is time-consuming and has low sensitivity. This has led to an increase in the amount of detection methods available. These detection methods are either solid phase, occurring on a solid support, or solution phase, occurring in solution. While the solid-phase methods are adaptable to high-throughput screening and possess higher sensitivity than Northern blotting, they lack the ability for in vivo use and are often time-consuming. The solution-phase methods are advantageous in that they can be performed in vivo, are very sensitive, and are rapid; however, they cannot be applied in high-throughput settings. Although there are multiple detection methods available, including microarray technology, luminescence-based assays, electrochemical assays, etc., there is still much work to be done regarding miRNA detection. The current gaps of miRNA detection include the ability to perform multiplex, sensitive detection of miRNA with single-nucleotide specificity along with the standardization of these new methods. Current miRNA detection methods, gaps in these methods, miRNA therapeutic options, and the future outlook of miRNA detection are presented here.

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Northern
  • Electrochemistry
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman


  • MicroRNAs