Eukaryotic gene expression is controlled at the post-transcriptional level by small noncoding RNAs called microRNAs (miRNA). miRNAs play important roles during early development and participate in gene regulatory circuits in the cell. Different high-throughput expression analysis methods including microarrays, bead-based detection, and small RNA cloning have been applied to quantitatively detect miRNAs in various tissues, cell types, and biological conditions. High-throughput expression data was collected from public repositories and processed to create a database of miRNA expression profiles. Several commonly used normalization methods were compared to identify suitable methods for cross-platform comparison of high-throughput miRNA expression data. The database provides interlaboratory and interplatform validated reference expression levels for miRNAs. The normalized expression profiles were validated by querying for well-established features of miRNA expression. Firstly, expression profiles of several tissue-specific miRNAs showed good agreement between the database and previously reported profiles. We have also identified a set of miRNAs that are constitutively expressed across mammalian tissues. Secondly, we used the database to compare the expression patterns of miRNAs belonging to the let-7 family, where the divergence in expression patterns implies that they may have diversified functionally. Lastly, we compared expression profiles of intronic and clustered miRNAs. Expression profiles of intronic miRNAs and clustered miRNAs showed either very good, or in certain cases, very poor correlation with the host gene. Interplatform comparison of miRNA expression profiles thus provides a resource of consensus expression profiles that can be used in the future for studying miRNA function and regulation.
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