RNA Blot Analysis for the Detection and Quantification of Plant MicroRNAs

J Vis Exp. 2020 Jul 11:(161). doi: 10.3791/61394.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenously expressed non-coding, ~21 nt small RNAs involved in the regulation of gene expression in both plants and animals. Most miRNAs act as negative switches of gene expression targeting key genes. In plants, primary miRNAs (pri-miRNAs) transcripts are generated by RNA polymerase II, and they form varying lengths of stable stem-loop structures called pre-miRNAs. An endonuclease, Dicer-like1, processes the pre-miRNAs into miRNA-miRNA* duplexes. One of the strands from miRNA-miRNA* duplex is selected and loaded onto Argonaute 1 protein or its homologs to mediate the cleavage of target mRNAs. Although miRNAs are key signaling molecules, their detection is often carried out by less than optimal PCR-based methods instead of a sensitive northern blot analysis. We describe a simple, reliable, and extremely sensitive northern method that is ideal for the quantification of miRNA levels with very high sensitivity, literally from any plant tissue. Additionally, this method can be used to confirm the size, stability and the abundance of miRNAs and their precursors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Northern / methods*
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Plants / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • Ribonuclease III


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Plant
  • DICER1 protein, human
  • Ribonuclease III
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases