Original Article

Cell Research (2008) 18:997–1006. doi: 10.1038/cr.2008.282; published online 2 September 2008

Characterization of microRNAs in serum: a novel class of biomarkers for diagnosis of cancer and other diseases

Xi Chen1,*, Yi Ba2,*, Lijia Ma3,4,*, Xing Cai1, Yuan Yin1, Kehui Wang1, Jigang Guo1, Yujing Zhang1, Jiangning Chen1, Xing Guo1, Qibin Li3,4, Xiaoying Li5, Wenjing Wang6, Yan Zhang1, Jin Wang1, Xueyuan Jiang1, Yang Xiang1, Chen Xu1, Pingping Zheng3, Juanbin Zhang3, Ruiqiang Li3, Hongjie Zhang1, Xiaobin Shang2, Ting Gong2, Guang Ning5, Jun Wang3,4, Ke Zen1, Junfeng Zhang1 and Chen-Yu Zhang1

  1. 1Jiangsu Diabetes Center, State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University, 22 Hankou Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210093, China
  2. 2Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, Tianjin 300000, China
  3. 3Beijing Genomics Institute, Shenzhen 518083, China
  4. 4Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 101300, China
  5. 5Department of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases, Ruijin Hospital Affiliated to The Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, China
  6. 6Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shanghai 200336, China

Correspondence: Chen-Yu Zhang, Tel/fax: +86-25-83686234 E-mail: cyzhang@nju.edu.cn; Junfeng Zhang, Tel/fax: +86-25-83686234 E-mail: jfzhang@nju.edu.cn; Ke Zen, Tel/fax: +86-25-83686234 E-mail: kzen@nju.edu.cn; Jun Wang, Tel/fax: +86-25-83686234 E-mail: wangj@genomics.org.cn

*These three authors contributed equally to this work.

Received 30 July 2008; Revised 7 August 2008; Accepted 7 August 2008.



Dysregulated expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) in various tissues has been associated with a variety of diseases, including cancers. Here we demonstrate that miRNAs are present in the serum and plasma of humans and other animals such as mice, rats, bovine fetuses, calves, and horses. The levels of miRNAs in serum are stable, reproducible, and consistent among individuals of the same species. Employing Solexa, we sequenced all serum miRNAs of healthy Chinese subjects and found over 100 and 91 serum miRNAs in male and female subjects, respectively. We also identified specific expression patterns of serum miRNAs for lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and diabetes, providing evidence that serum miRNAs contain fingerprints for various diseases. Two non-small cell lung cancer-specific serum miRNAs obtained by Solexa were further validated in an independent trial of 75 healthy donors and 152 cancer patients, using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assays. Through these analyses, we conclude that serum miRNAs can serve as potential biomarkers for the detection of various cancers and other diseases.


serum-microRNA, expression profile, fingerprint, blood-based biomarker, Solexa, cancers, diabetes


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