Isolation and Identification of Gene-Specific MicroRNAs

  • Shi-Lung LinEmail author
  • Donald C. Chang
  • Shao-Yao Ying
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1733)


Computer programming has identified hundreds of genomic hairpin sequences, many with functions yet to be determined. Because transfection of hairpin-like microRNA precursors (pre-miRNAs) into mammalian cells is not always sufficient to trigger RNA-induced gene silencing complex (RISC) assembly, a key step for inducing RNA interference (RNAi)-related gene silencing, we have developed an intronic miRNA expression system to overcome this problem by inserting a hairpin-like pre-miRNA structure into the intron region of a gene, and hence successfully increase the efficiency and effectiveness of miRNA-associated RNAi induction in vitro and in vivo. This intronic miRNA biogenesis mechanism has been found to depend on a coupled interaction of nascent messenger RNA transcription and intron excision within a specific nuclear region proximal to genomic perichromatin fibrils. The intronic miRNA so obtained is transcribed by type-II RNA polymerases, coexpressed within a primary gene transcript, and then excised out of the gene transcript by intracellular RNA splicing and processing machineries. After that, ribonuclease III (RNaseIII) endonucleases further process the spliced introns into mature miRNAs. Using this intronic miRNA expression system, we have shown for the first time that the intron-derived miRNAs are able to elicit strong RNAi effects in not only human and mouse cells in vitro but also in zebrafishes, chicken embryos, and adult mice in vivo. We have also developed a miRNA isolation protocol, based on the complementarity between the designed miRNA and its targeted gene sequence, to purify and identify the mature miRNAs generated. As a result, several intronic miRNA identities and structures have been confirmed. According to this proof-of-principle methodology, we now have full knowledge to design various intronic pre-miRNA inserts that are more efficient and effective for inducing specific gene silencing effects in vitro and in vivo.

Key words

MicroRNA (miRNA) biogenesis Gene cloning RNA interference (RNAi) RNA-induced gene silencing complex (RISC) Asymmetric assembly Zebrafish 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Regenerative MedicineWJWU & LYNN Institute for Stem Cell ResearchSanta Fe SpringsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Integrative Anatomical Sciences, Keck School of MedicineUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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