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MicroRNA Involvment in Embryo Development

miRCURY LNA™ microRNA Detection Probes

Dr. Ronald H. A. Plasterk
Prof Ronald H. A. Plasterk has recently become Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science. Before that he was Director of the Hubrecht Laboratory / Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology in Utrecht, and Professor of Developmental Genetics at the University of Utrecht. Here he describes part of his research on small RNAs and how the miRCURY LNA ™  Detection probes has benefited this work.

1. What is your research area?

We have for several years been studying the mechanism and regulation of DNA transposition by RNAi in the nematode C. elegans and zebrafish. Recently we have also been investigating the role of small RNAs – especially microRNAs - in animal development. In fact, out of the 20 people in our group 15 are now directly involved in this work.

2. Why did you choose to test the miRCURY LNA™ detection probes?

I attended a conference last Autumn and saw some very nice in situ images of microRNAs in plants. The group had used the miRCURY LNA™ detection probes from Exiqon. Immediately thereafter I got 3 probes targeting microRNAs that according to the literature were specific in brain and liver in zebrafish embryos. We made our experiments the same day we received the probes and we got some beautiful data and spectacular images.

3. What have been the main benefits of the miRCURY LNA™ detection probes?

The probes simply enabled this research – we did try DNA and RNA probes but they were clearly not as useful. The miRCURY LNA™ detection probes were very sensitive and specific and in situ hybridization data were generated very fast. A few months after our initial experiments we generated a complete catalogue of images showing the temporal and spatial expression patterns of 115 conserved microRNAs in zebrafish embryos. This work was published in Science this Summer 1 and a second paper will be published in Nature Methods January 2006.

4. Do you think microRNAs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to small non-coding RNAs?

We have been cloning small RNAs and only a small subset is microRNA. There are clearly many others and the copy numbers are high. Currently we don’t know much about these molecules.

5. Can you disclose your near future research plans?

We are expanding the catalogue of expression patterns in mouse and especially human brain and if possible link these to human diseases. We use morpholinos to knockdown microRNAs studying the phenotypic effect and miRCURY LNA™ detection probes to verify the knockdown. So small RNAs remain an important research area of our group.


1 Wienholds et al., Science, 2005, 309, 310-311.


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