Background: Extracellular microRNAs (miRNAs), released from cells into biofluids, have emerged as promising biomarkers for diagnostic and prognostic purposes. Several RNA isolation methods are available for the analysis of these cell-free miRNAs by RT-qPCR. Not all methods, however, are equally suitable for different biofluids. Here, we extracted total RNA from four very diverse biofluids: serum, urine, bile, and graft preservation fluid (perfusate). Four different protocols were used: a phenol-chloroform extraction and alcohol precipitation in combination with a precipitation carrier (QP) and three different column-based isolation methods, one with phenol-chloroform extraction (RN) and two without (NG and CU). For this range of clinical biofluid samples, we evaluated the potential of these different RNA isolation methods assessing recovery efficiency and the co-purification of RT-qPCR inhibiting compounds. Results: Differences were observed between each of the RNA isolation methods in the recovery of cel-miR-39, a synthetic miRNA spiked in during the workup procedure, and for endogenous miRNAs. Co-purification of heparin, a known RT-qPCR inhibitor, was assessed using heparinase I during cDNA synthesis. RT-qPCR detection of synthetic miRNAs cel-miR-39, spiked in during RNA workup, cel-miR-54, spiked in during cDNA synthesis, and endogenous miRNAs was strongly improved in the presence of heparinase I for some, but not all, isolation methods. Other, co-isolated RT-qPCR inhibitors were not identified, except for biliverdin, which co-isolated from some bile samples with one of the methods. In addition, we observed that serum and urine contain compounds that enhance the binding of heparin to certain solid-phase columns. Conclusions: For reliable measurements of miRNA-based biomarkers in biofluids, optimization of RNA isolation procedures is recommended as methods can differ in miRNA detection and in co-purification of RT-qPCR inhibitory compounds. Heparinase I treatment confirmed that heparin appeared to be the major RT-qPCR inhibiting compound, but also biliverdin, co-isolated from bile, could interfere with detection.
We thank Ms. Petra E. de Ruiter and Mr. Eric R. Safai for carefully reading and correcting the manuscript.
© 2021, The Author(s).