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Identification of reference miRNAs in plasma useful for the study of oestrogen-responsive miRNAs associated with acquired Protein S deficiency in pregnancy

Tay, J.W., James, I., Hughes, Q.W., Tiao, J.Y. and Baker, R.I. (2017) Identification of reference miRNAs in plasma useful for the study of oestrogen-responsive miRNAs associated with acquired Protein S deficiency in pregnancy. BMC Research Notes, 10 (1).

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Accumulating evidence indicate that circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) are useful independent non-invasive biomarkers, with unique miRNA signatures defined for various pathophysiological conditions. However, there are no established universal housekeeping miRNAs for the normalisation of miRNAs in body fluids. We have previously identified an oestrogen-responsive miRNA, miR-494, in regulating the anticoagulant, Protein S, in HuH-7 liver cells. Moreover, increased thrombotic risk associated with elevated circulating oestrogen levels is frequently observed in pregnant women and oral contraceptive users. In order to identify other oestrogen-responsive miRNAs, including miR-494, that may be indicative of increased thrombotic risk in plasma, we used nanoString analysis to identify robust and stable endogenous reference miRNAs for the study of oestrogen-responsive miRNAs in plasma.


We compared the plasma miRNA expression profile of individuals with: (1) Low circulating oestrogens (healthy men and non-pregnant women not taking oral contraceptives), (2) High circulating synthetic oestrogens, (women taking oral contraceptives) and (3) High circulating natural oestrogens (pregnant females >14 weeks gestation). From the nanoString analyses, 11 candidate reference miRNAs which exhibited high counts and not significantly differentially expressed between groups were selected for validation using realtime quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) and digital droplet PCR (DDPCR) in pooled plasma samples, and the stability of their expression evaluated using NormFinder and BestKeeper algorithms. Four miRNAs (miR-25-5p, miR-188-5p, miR-222-3p and miR-520f) demonstrated detectable stable expression between groups and were further analysed by RT-qPCR in individual plasma samples, where miR-188-5p and miR-222-3p expression were identified as a stable pair of reference genes. The miRNA reference panel consisting of synthetic spike-ins cel-miR-39 and ath-miR159a, and reference miRNAs, miR-188-5p and miR-222-3p was useful in evaluating fold-change of the pregnancy-associated miRNA, miR-141-3p, between groups.


The miRNA reference panel will be useful for normalising qPCR data comparing miRNA expression between men and women, non-pregnant and pregnant females, and the potential effects of endogenous and synthetic oestrogens on plasma miRNA expression.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases
Publisher: BioMed Central
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