We present a human miRNA tissue atlas by determining the abundance of 1997 miRNAs in 61 tissue biopsies of different organs from two individuals collected post-mortem. One thousand three hundred sixty-four miRNAs were discovered in at least one tissue, 143 were present in each tissue. To define the distribution of miRNAs, we utilized a tissue specificity index (TSI). The majority of miRNAs (82.9%) fell in a middle TSI range i.e. were neither specific for single tissues (TSI > 0.85) nor housekeeping miRNAs (TSI < 0.5). Nonetheless, we observed many different miRNAs and miRNA families that were predominantly expressed in certain tissues. Clustering of miRNA abundances revealed that tissues like several areas of the brain clustered together. Considering -3p and -5p mature forms we observed miR-150 with different tissue specificity. Analysis of additional lung and prostate biopsies indicated that inter-organism variability was significantly lower than inter-organ variability. Tissue-specific differences between the miRNA patterns appeared not to be significantly altered by storage as shown for heart and lung tissue. MiRNAs TSI values of human tissues were significantly (P = 10(-8)) correlated with those of rats; miRNAs that were highly abundant in certain human tissues were likewise abundant in according rat tissues. We implemented a web-based repository enabling scientists to access and browse the data (https://ccb-web.cs.uni-saarland.de/tissueatlas).
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.