Scientific reports

Sensitive and long-term monitoring of intracellular microRNAs using a non-integrating cytoplasmic RNA vector.

PMID 28978921


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that modulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Different types of cells express unique sets of miRNAs that can be exploited as potential molecular markers to identify specific cell types. Among the variety of miRNA detection methods, a fluorescence-based imaging system that utilises a fluorescent-reporter gene regulated by a target miRNA offers a major advantage for long-term tracking of the miRNA in living cells. In this study, we developed a novel fluorescence-based miRNA-monitoring system using a non-integrating cytoplasmic RNA vector based on a replication-defective and persistent Sendai virus (SeVdp). Because SeVdp vectors robustly and stably express transgenes, this system enabled sensitive monitoring of miRNAs by fluorescence microscopy. By applying this system for cellular reprogramming, we found that miR-124, but not miR-9, was significantly upregulated during direct neuronal conversion. Additionally, we were able to isolate integration-free human induced pluripotent stem cells by long-term tracking of let-7 expression. Notably, this system was easily expandable to allow detection of multiple miRNAs separately and simultaneously. Our findings provide insight into a powerful tool for evaluating miRNA expression during the cellular reprogramming process and for isolating reprogrammed cells potentially useful for medical applications.