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Biological Sciences


microRNAs (miRNAs) have vital roles in regulating gene expression—contributing to major diseases like cancer and heart disease. Over the last decade, thousands of miRNAs have been discovered through high throughput sequencing-based annotation. Different classes have been described, as well as a great dynamic range of expression levels. While sequencing approaches provide insight into biogenesis and allow confident identification, there is a need for additional methods for validation and characterization. Northern blotting was one of the first techniques used for studying miRNAs, and remains one of the most valuable as it avoids enzymatic manipulation of miRNA transcripts. Blotting can also provide insight into biogenesis by revealing RNA processing intermediates. Compared to sequencing, however, northern blotting is a relatively insensitive technology. This creates a challenge for detecting low expressed miRNAs, particularly those produced by inefficient, non-canonical pathways. In this chapter, we describe a strategy to study such miRNAs by northern blotting that involves ectopic expression of both miRNAs and miRNA-binding Argonaute (Ago) proteins. Through use of epitope tags, this strategy also provides a convenient method for verification of small RNA competency to be loaded into regulatory complexes.


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in miRNA Biogenesis following peer review. The version of record is available online at: 10.1007/978-1-4939-8624-8_16.

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Methods in Molecular Biology



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