Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-protein-coding RNA species that have a regulatory function in modulating protein translation and degradation of specific mRNAs. MicroRNAs are estimated to target approximately 60% of all human mRNAs and are associated with the regulation of all physiological processes. Similar to many messenger RNAs (mRNA), miRNAs exhibit marked tissue specificity, and appear to be dysregulated in response to specific pathological conditions. Perhaps, one of the most significant findings is that miRNAs are detectable in various biological fluids and are stable during routine clinical processing, paving the way for their use as novel biomarkers. Despite an increasing number of publications reporting individual miRNAs or miRNA signatures to be diagnostic of disease or indicative of response to therapy, there is still a paucity of baseline data necessary for their validation. To this end, we utilised state of the art sequencing technologies to determine the global expression of all circulating miRNAs within the plasma of 18 disease-free human subjects. Results: In excess of 500 miRNAs were detected in our study population with expression levels across several orders of magnitude. Ten highly expressed miRNAs accounted for 90% of the total reads that mapped showing that despite the range of miRNAs present, the total miRNA load of the plasma was predominated by just these few species (50% of which are blood cell associated). Ranges of expression were determined for all miRNA detected (>500) and a set of highly stable miRNAs identified. Finally, the effects of gender, smoking status and body mass index on miRNA expression were determined. Conclusions: The data contained within will be of particular use to researchers performing miRNA-based biomarker screening in plasma and allow shortlisting of candidates a priori to expedite discovery or reduce costs as required.
- Plasma sequencing
- Small RNA