Comparing the MicroRNA spectrum between serum and plasma

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041561. Epub 2012 Jul 31.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that regulate various biological processes, primarily through interaction with messenger RNAs. The levels of specific, circulating miRNAs in blood have been shown to associate with various pathological conditions including cancers. These miRNAs have great potential as biomarkers for various pathophysiological conditions. In this study we focused on different sample types' effects on the spectrum of circulating miRNA in blood. Using serum and corresponding plasma samples from the same individuals, we observed higher miRNA concentrations in serum samples compared to the corresponding plasma samples. The difference between serum and plasma miRNA concentration showed some associations with miRNA from platelets, which may indicate that the coagulation process may affect the spectrum of extracellular miRNA in blood. Several miRNAs also showed platform dependent variations in measurements. Our results suggest that there are a number of factors that might affect the measurement of circulating miRNA concentration. Caution must be taken when comparing miRNA data generated from different sample types or measurement platforms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • MicroRNAs / isolation & purification
  • Plasma
  • Serum
  • Young Adult


  • MicroRNAs

Grant support

This work was supported by the ISB-University of Luxemburg program and research contracts from the Department of Defense (W911SR-07-C-0101, W81XWH-09-1-0107 and HDTRA 1-08-C-0023). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.