High-throughput Assessment of microRNA Activity and Function Using microRNA Sensor and Decoy Libraries

Nat Methods. 2012 Jul 1;9(8):840-6. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2078.


We introduce two large-scale resources for functional analysis of microRNA (miRNA): a decoy library for inhibiting miRNA function and a sensor library for monitoring microRNA activity. To take advantage of the sensor library, we developed a high-throughput assay called Sensor-seq to simultaneously quantify the activity of hundreds of miRNAs. Using this approach, we show that only the most abundant miRNAs in a cell mediate target suppression. Over 60% of detected miRNAs had no discernible activity, which indicated that the functional 'miRNome' of a cell is considerably smaller than currently inferred from profiling studies. Moreover, some highly expressed miRNAs exhibited relatively weak activity, which in some cases correlated with a high target-to-miRNA ratio or increased nuclear localization of the miRNA. Finally, we show that the miRNA decoy library can be used for pooled loss-of-function studies. These tools are valuable resources for studying miRNA biology and for miRNA-based therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Gene Library*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / antagonists & inhibitors
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*


  • MicroRNAs

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE37771