Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Biomarker Research


Volume 2

Inclusive Pages

Article number 13


Circulating microRNAs (c-miRNAs) have be identified in saliva, urine and blood, which has led to increasing interest in their development as biomarkers for diverse diseases including cancers. One of the key advantages of c-miRNAs over other biomarkers is the ability to be amplified and quantified by quantitative PCR (qPCR). However, at phlebotomy when whole blood is dispensed into heparinized tubes, residual levels of the anti-coagulant lithium heparin may remain in the plasma and hence with RNA isolated from the plasma. This can confound the detection of c-miRNAs by qPCR because it inhibits reverse transcriptase (RT). Here we present a procedure, modified from earlier techniques, to detect c-miRNAs in plasma that improves sensitivity and streamlines performance. Findings Treatment of total RNA isolated from human blood plasma with Bacteroides heparinase I during reverse transcription at 37?C for one hour improved sensitivity and performance of the qPCR. This is in comparison to no treatment or treatment of the RNA prior to RT, which is the current suggested method and exposes plasma to Flavobacterium heparinum heparinase I for up to 2?hours before RT. This modest alteration improved qPCR performance and resulted in lowered threshold cycles (Ct) for detection of the target sequence, candidate c-miRNA biomarkers, and controls. It also reduced the expense and number of processing steps, shortening the duration of the assay and minimizing exposure of RNA to elevated temperatures.


Reproduced with permission of BioMed Central Biomarker Research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Peer Reviewed


Open Access


Box-and-whisker plot of threshold cycles.pptx (236 kB)
Box-and-whisker plot of threshold cycles (main axis) for miRTC and C. elegans miR-39 from 19 samples of threshold cycles exposed to Bacteroides heparinase I during the reverse transcription. Matched samples not treated with heparinase I failed to yield measurable Ct (>45), except for PPC.