Bioluminescence-based detection of microRNA, miR21 in breast cancer cells

Kyle A. Cissell, Yasmeen Rahimi, Suresh Shrestha, Eric A. Hunt, Sapna K. Deo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations


A hybridization assay for the detection of microRNA, miR21 in cancer cells using the bioluminescent enzyme Renilla luciferase (Rluc) as a label, has been developed. MicroRNAs are small RNAs found in plants, animals, and humans that perform key functions in gene silencing and affect early-stage cell development, cell differentiation, and cell death. miRNAs are considered useful early diagnostic and prognostic markers of cancer, candidates for therapeutic intervention, and targets for basic biomedical research. However, methods for highly sensitive and rapid detection of miRNA directly from samples such as cells that can serve as a suitable diagnostics platform are lacking. In that regard, the utilization of the bioluminescent label, Rluc, that offers the advantage of high signal-to-noise ratio, allows for the development of highly sensitive assays for the determination of miRNA in a variety of matrixes. In this paper, we have described the development of a competitive oligonucleotide hybridization assay for the detection of miR21 using the free miR21 and Rluc-labeled miR21 that competes to bind to an immobilized miR21 complementary probe. The miR21 microRNA chosen for this study is of biomedical significance because its levels are elevated in a variety of cancers. Using the optimized assay, a detection limit of 1 fmol was obtained. The assay was employed for the detection of miR21 in human breast adenocarcinoma MCF-7 cells and nontumorigenic epithelial MCF-10A cells. The comparison of miR21 expression level in two cell lines demonstrated higher expression of miR21 in breast cancer cell line MCF-7 compared to the nontumorigenic MCF-10A cells. Further, using the assay developed, the miR21 quantification could be performed directly in cell extracts. The hybridization assay was developed in a microplate format with a total assay time of 1.5 h and without the need for sample PCR amplification. The need for early molecular markers and their detection methods in cancer diagnosis is tremendous. The characteristics of the assay developed in this work show its suitability for early cancer diagnosis based on miRNA as a biomarker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2319-2325
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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