Pieter Mestdagh, Jo Vandesompele
Ghent University / Biogazelle, Belgium (on behalf of the microRNA quality control study consortium)
MicroRNAs are important negative regulators of protein-coding gene expression and have been studied intensively over the past years. Several measurement platforms have been developed to determine relative miRNA abundance in biological samples using different technologies such as small RNA sequencing, reverse transcription–quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and (microarray) hybridization. In this study, we systematically compared 14 commercially available platforms for analysis of microRNA expression. We measured an identical set of 20 standardized positive and negative control samples, including human universal reference RNA, human brain RNA and titrations thereof, human serum samples and synthetic spikes from microRNA family members with varying homology. We developed robust quality metrics to objectively assess platform performance in terms of reproducibility, sensitivity, accuracy, specificity and concordance of differential expression. The results indicate that each method has its strengths and weaknesses, which help to guide informed selection of a quantitative microRNA gene expression platform for particular study goals.
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