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Direct detection of endogenous MicroRNAs and their post-transcriptional modifications in cancer serum by capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry

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MicroRNA molecules (miRNAs) are a class of small, single-stranded, non-coding RNA molecules that regulate cellular messenger RNA and their corresponding proteins. Extracellular miRNAs circulate in the bloodstream inside exosomes or in complexes with proteins and lipoproteins. The miRNA sequences and their quantitative levels are used as unique signatures associated with cancer diagnosis and prognosis after anticancer treatment. MicroRNAs are modified through a series of processing events after transcription like 5’-end phosphorylation, 3’- end adenylation or uridylation, terminal nucleotide deletion. The problem is that existing bioanalytical methods such as microarrays and a quantitative polymerase chain reaction are sensitive, but not capable of identifying the post-transcriptional modifications of miRNA. Here we report a capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (CE-MS) method, which performs a multiplex, direct analysis of miRNAs from biological samples. Using the CE-MS method, we detected two endogenous human circulating miRNAs, a 23-nucleotide long 5’-phosporylated miRNA with 3’-uridylation (iso-miR-16-5p), and a 22-nucleotide long 5’-phosporylated miRNA (miR-21-5p) isolated from B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia serum. The CE separation and following MS analysis provides label-free quantitation and reveals modifications of miRNAs. MicroRNA profiling of serum samples with CE-MS has the potential to be a versatile and minimally invasive bioassay that could lead to better clinical diagnostics and disease treatment.

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Correspondence to Maxim V. Berezovski.

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The authors have no conflict of interest, relevant affiliations, or financial involvements with any organization discussed in the manuscript. No writing assistance was utilized in the production of the manuscript.

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Published in the topical collection featuring Young Investigators in Analytical and Bioanalytical Science with guest editors S. Daunert, A. Baeumner, S. Deo, J. Ruiz Encinar, and L. Zhang.

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Khan, N., Mironov, G. & Berezovski, M.V. Direct detection of endogenous MicroRNAs and their post-transcriptional modifications in cancer serum by capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem 408, 2891–2899 (2016).

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