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Isolating, Sequencing and Analyzing Extracellular MicroRNAs from Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Published: March 8th, 2019



1The Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre, Aarhus University, 2Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
* These authors contributed equally

This protocol demonstrates how to purify extracellular microRNAs from cell culture media for small RNA library construction and next generation sequencing. Various quality control checkpoints are described to allow readers to understand what to expect when working with low input samples like exRNAs.

Extracellular and circulating RNAs (exRNA) are produced by many cell types of the body and exist in numerous bodily fluids such as saliva, plasma, serum, milk and urine. One subset of these RNAs are the posttranscriptional regulators – microRNAs (miRNAs). To delineate the miRNAs produced by specific cell types, in vitro culture systems can be used to harvest and profile exRNAs derived from one subset of cells. The secreted factors of mesenchymal stem cells are implicated in alleviating numerous diseases and is used as the in vitro model system here. This paper describes the process of collection, purification of small RNA and library generation to sequence extracellular miRNAs. ExRNAs from culture media differ from cellular RNA by being low RNA input samples, which calls for optimized procedures. This protocol provides a comprehensive guide to small exRNA sequencing from culture media, showing quality control checkpoints at each step during exRNA purification and sequencing.

Extracellular and circulating RNAs (exRNAs) are present in various bodily fluids and are resistant towards RNases1,2. Their high abundance, stability and ease of accessibility are attractive for clinical assessment as diagnostic and prognostic markers3. The mode of transport for exRNAs include extracellular vesicles (EVs), association with lipoproteins (such as high-density lipoprotein; HDL) and ribonucleoprotein complexes (such as with Argonaute2 complexes)4.

A subset of exRNAs are microRNAs (miRNAs), which are small non-coding RNAs o....

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NOTE: Mesenchymal stem cell growth medium (MSC media) is prepared beforehand as indicated in the Table of Materials.

1. Cell culture

NOTE: Human mesenchymal stem cells can be obtained from the bone marrow, adipose tissue or other sources11. Alternatively, hMSCs can be bought through a supplier. The BMSCs used in this protocol were derived from the bone marrow of patients and bought from a company.

  1. Thaw 1 x 10.......

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The method described in this protocol is optimized to collect exRNA from MSC culture for next generation sequencing. The overall scheme of the workflow is in Figure 1 on the left and the respective quality control checkpoints are on the right.

The morphology of the cells on the day of collection for undifferentiated (Figure 3A) and differentiated (F.......

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Here, we describe a protocol for next generation sequencing of exRNAs that enables differential expression analyses from low input samples. Adhering to a specific protocol for EV and exRNA isolation is important because even small alterations (i.e., the ultracentrifugation step or a change in rotor type) can influence the transcriptome and miRNA levels13,14. Thus, regardless of how the exRNA is isolated, it is important to apply the same experimental and bioinfor.......

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We are grateful to Mr. Claus Bus and Ms. Rita Rosendahl at iNANO for their technical assistance. Special thanks to Dr. Daniel Otzen for allowing our frequent use of his ultracentrifuge. This study was supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark (MUSTER project).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells ATCC PCS-500-012 Cells used in this protocol was bought from ATCC
MSCGM BulletKit Lonza PT-3001 Termed as Mesenchymal Stem Cell Growth Medium (MSC media)
Exosome-depleted FBS Gibco A2720801
ExRNA collecting media: MSCGM but with the FBS replaced by exosome-depleted FBS
Trypsin-EDTA Gibco 25200056
T175 Flask Sarstedt 833,912
Penicillin-Streptomycin Gibco 15140122
Phosphate Buffered Saline Sigma 806552
Ultracentrifuge Beckman Coulter
Polycarbonate Bottle with Cap Assembly Beckman Coulter 355618
Beckman Coulter Type 60 Ti Rotor used here
NucleoCounter Chemometec NC-3000 Cell Counter
β-glycerophosphate Calbiochem 35675 Components of the osteogenic differentiation media
Dexamethasone Sigma D4902-25MG Components of the osteogenic differentiation media
2-Phospho-L-ascorbic acid trisodium salt Sigma 49752-10G Components of the osteogenic differentiation media
1α,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Sigma D1530-1MG Components of the osteogenic differentiation media
miRNeasy Mini Kit Qiagen 217004 miRNA and total RNA purification kit for step 4.8
Agilent RNA 6000 Pico Kit Agilent Technologies 5067-1514 Chip-based capillary electrophoresis machine and chips for RNA and DNA analysis
Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer Agilent Technologies G2939BA Chip-based capillary electrophoresis machine and chips for RNA and DNA analysis
Agilent High Sensitivity DNA Kit Agilent Technologies 5067-4626 Chip-based capillary electrophoresis machine and chips for RNA and DNA analysis
KAPA Library Quantification Kits Roche KK4824 Library quantification kit used here
TruSeq Small RNA Library Prep Kit -Set A (24 rxns) (Set A: indexes 1-12) Illumina RS-200-0012 Small RNA library prepartion kit used in this protocol - used in step 5
Pippin Prep Sage Science Automated DNA gel extractor used in this protocol; manual extraction can be done too
MinElute PCR Purification Kit Qiagen 28004 PCR purification in step 5.17
FASTX_Toolkit Cold Spring Harbor Lab Trimming low-quality reads in step 6
cutadapt Adaptor removal in step 6
Bowtie Mapping of clean reads in step 6
Samtools To make the expression profile in step 6
Bedtools To make the expression profile in step 6

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