Comparison of methods for miRNA extraction from plasma and quantitative recovery of RNA from cerebrospinal fluid

Melissa A. McAlexander, Maggie J. Phillips, Kenneth W. Witwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interest in extracellular RNA (exRNA) has intensified as evidence accumulates that these molecules may be useful as indicators of a wide variety of biological conditions. To establish specific exRNA molecules as clinically relevant biomarkers, reproducible recovery from biological samples and reliable measurements of the isolated RNA are paramount. Toward these ends, careful and rigorous comparisons of technical procedures are needed at all steps from sample handling to RNA isolation to RNA measurement protocols. In the investigations described in this methods paper, RT-qPCR was used to examine the apparent recovery of specific endogenous miRNAs and a spiked-in synthetic RNA from blood plasma samples. RNA was isolated using several widely used RNA isolation kits, with or without the addition of glycogen as a carrier. Kits examined included total RNA isolation systems that have been commercially available for several years and commonly adapted for extraction of biofluid RNA, as well as more recently introduced biofluids-specific RNA methods. Our conclusions include the following: some RNA isolation methods appear to be superior to others for the recovery of RNA from biological fluids; addition of a carrier molecule seems to be beneficial for some but not all isolation methods; and quantitative recovery of RNA is observed from increasing volumes of cerebrospinal fluid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 83
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2013


  • Biofluid
  • Biomarker
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Method
  • Plasma
  • RNA isolation
  • RT-qPCR
  • miRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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