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Evaluation of two commercial global miRNA expression profiling platforms for detection of less abundant miRNAs

Steffen G Jensen, Philippe Lamy, Mads H Rasmussen, Marie S Ostenfeld, Lars Dyrskjøt, Torben F Ørntoft and Claus L Andersen*

Author Affiliations

Department of Molecular Medicine (MOMA), Aarhus University Hospital-Skejby, DK-8200 Aarhus N, Denmark

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:435  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-435

Published: 26 August 2011



microRNAs (miRNA) are short, endogenous transcripts that negatively regulate the expression of specific mRNA targets. miRNAs are found both in tissues and body fluids such as plasma. A major perspective for the use of miRNAs in the clinical setting is as diagnostic plasma markers for neoplasia. While miRNAs are abundant in tissues, they are often scarce in plasma. For quantification of miRNA in plasma it is therefore of importance to use a platform with high sensitivity and linear performance in the low concentration range. This motivated us to evaluate the performance of three commonly used commercial miRNA quantification platforms: GeneChip miRNA 2.0 Array, miRCURY Ready-to-Use PCR, Human panel I+II V1.M, and TaqMan Human MicroRNA Array v3.0.


Using synthetic miRNA samples and plasma RNA samples spiked with different ratios of 174 synthetic miRNAs we assessed the performance characteristics reproducibility, recovery, specificity, sensitivity and linearity. It was found that while the qRT-PCR based platforms were sufficiently sensitive to reproducibly detect miRNAs at the abundance levels found in human plasma, the array based platform was not. At high miRNA levels both qRT-PCR based platforms performed well in terms of specificity, reproducibility and recovery. At low miRNA levels, as in plasma, the miRCURY platform showed better sensitivity and linearity than the TaqMan platform.


For profiling clinical samples with low miRNA abundance, such as plasma samples, the miRCURY platform with its better sensitivity and linearity would probably be superior.