Total Extracellular Small RNA Profiles from Plasma, Saliva, and Urine of Healthy Subjects

Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 17;7:44061. doi: 10.1038/srep44061.


Interest in circulating RNAs for monitoring and diagnosing human health has grown significantly. There are few datasets describing baseline expression levels for total cell-free circulating RNA from healthy control subjects. In this study, total extracellular RNA (exRNA) was isolated and sequenced from 183 plasma samples, 204 urine samples and 46 saliva samples from 55 male college athletes ages 18-25 years. Many participants provided more than one sample, allowing us to investigate variability in an individual's exRNA expression levels over time. Here we provide a systematic analysis of small exRNAs present in each biofluid, as well as an analysis of exogenous RNAs. The small RNA profile of each biofluid is distinct. We find that a large number of RNA fragments in plasma (63%) and urine (54%) have sequences that are assigned to YRNA and tRNA fragments respectively. Surprisingly, while many miRNAs can be detected, there are few miRNAs that are consistently detected in all samples from a single biofluid, and profiles of miRNA are different for each biofluid. Not unexpectedly, saliva samples have high levels of exogenous sequence that can be traced to bacteria. These data significantly contribute to the current number of sequenced exRNA samples from normal healthy individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / analysis*
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Male
  • RNA / analysis*
  • RNA / blood
  • RNA / isolation & purification
  • RNA / urine
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Young Adult


  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • RNA