Background: MicroRNAs (miRNA) regulate the translation of mRNA during gene expression and investigations have highlighted their importance in pathophysiology. qRT-PCR is currently the gold standard method for detecting changes in miRNA expression. However, when used on heterogeneous samples, it cannot identify individual cell types harbouring miRNAs. For this, in situ hybridisation (ISH) can be used. ISH methods using locked nucleic acid (LNA) probes have been shown to give reliable results in formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples. In this study their use has been directly compared with conventional oligonucleotide probes (COP) for ISH.
Methods: FFPE samples of colorectal adenocarcinoma, squamous carcinoma of lung and cases of invasive breast carcinoma were used to evaluate COP and LNA methods for the demonstration of miR-126 and miR-205. To demonstrate the utility of the COP method demonstration of miR-21 in 19 Gleason stage 7 prostate biopsy FFPE tissues was also undertaken. The demonstration of miR-21 by ISH in high and low expressing prostate cancer cell lines was also compared with qRT-PCR.
Results: Similar results were obtained using the COP and LNA ISH methods for the demonstration of miR-126 and miR-205. miR-21 was successfully demonstrated in the prostate cancer samples by COP ISH and expression levels of the miRNA demonstrated in the cell lines corresponded with qRT-PCR.
Conclusion: This study has shown that simplification of ISH protocols by the use of COPs provides equivalent results to the use of LNA methods and it can be used to precisely identify cells in which miRNA are expressed.