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Small RNA-Sequencing: Approaches and Considerations for miRNA Analysis

Benesova, S.; Kubista, M.; Valihrach, L. Small RNA-Sequencing: Approaches and Considerations for miRNA Analysis. Diagnostics 2021, 11, 964.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small RNA molecules that have an important regulatory role in multiple physiological and pathological processes. Their disease-specific profiles and presence in biofluids are properties that enable miRNAs to be employed as non-invasive biomarkers. In the past decades, several methods have been developed for miRNA analysis, including small RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). Small RNA-seq enables genome-wide profiling and analysis of known, as well as novel, miRNA variants. Moreover, its high sensitivity allows for profiling of low input samples such as liquid biopsies, which have now found applications in diagnostics and prognostics. Still, due to technical bias and the limited ability to capture the true miRNA representation, its potential remains unfulfilled. The introduction of many new small RNA-seq approaches that tried to minimize this bias, has led to the existence of the many small RNA-seq protocols seen today. Here, we review all current approaches to cDNA library construction used during the small RNA-seq workflow, with particular focus on their implementation in commercially available protocols. We provide an overview of each protocol and discuss their applicability. We also review recent benchmarking studies comparing each protocol’s performance and summarize the major conclusions that can be gathered from their usage. The result documents variable performance of the protocols and highlights their different applications in miRNA research. Taken together, our review provides a comprehensive overview of all the current small RNA-seq approaches, summarizes their strengths and weaknesses, and provides guidelines for their applications in miRNA research.

diagram.jpgFigure 4. Selection of platform for small RNA-seq analysis. Decision diagram guides an informed choice of suitable protocol.