Tips from the Bench: Transfection Tip

Reverse Transfection Protocol for siRNA/miRNA

Advances in high throughput (HT) RNAi screening have made reverse transfection of siRNA/miRNA commonplace. Mirus offers two reagents for siRNA or miRNA transfection - TransIT-TKO® and TransIT-siQUEST®. Both reagents can be used for reverse transfecting short species of RNA such as siRNA and miRNA into a broad range of cell types. The following protocol details reverse transfection using TransIT-TKO® Transfection Reagent.

Citations for Reverse Transfection of siRNA using TransIT® Transfection Reagents

Citation Cell Type Transfected TransIT® Reagent Used Robotic system used Multi-well format Application
Lu et al. Oncogene. 2011 November 10; 30(45): 4567-4577. MDA-MB-468 TransIT-TKO® None 96-well HT Kinome siRNA phosphoproteomic screen using an siRNA library targeting 541 kinases and kinase-related genes
Andersen et al. Mol Ther. 2010 November; 18(11): 2018-2027. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) TransIT-TKO® None Tissue culture plates coated by a lyophilization process with TransIT-TKO®/siRNA particles Tissue engineering using siRNA coated nanostructured scaffolds
Choudhary et al. J Biol Chem, 286, 37187-37195. A549-Luc stable reporter cell line TransIT-siQUEST® Titertek, multidrop 384 cell dispenser 96-well HT siRNA screening of the human kinome
Liu et al. J Biol Chem. 2008 August 22; 283(34) 23169-23178. Ikkγ-/- MEFs TransIT-siQUEST® None Not specified Mechanism study for RSV infection

Reverse Transfection Protocol for siRNA in 96-well Plates Using TransIT-TKO® Transfection Reagent

Before You Start

Optimizing knockdown conditions in the cell type of interest by transfecting a RNAi reporter (such as a luciferase targeting siRNA) before conducting an HT RNAi screen is critical, if allowed by the experimental set-up. Alternatively, siRNAs targeting a non-essential endogenous gene can be employed. There are also options to directly track siRNA delivery by using labeled RNAi controls such as Label IT® RNAi Delivery Controls. Specific tips on optimizing siRNA transfection can be found here. A comprehensive resource on additional considerations for high throughout RNAi screening such as siRNA specificity and controlling off-target effects can be found here (1).

  • Determine the appropriate dose of siRNA (10-50 nM final concentration per well) and TransIT-TKO® Transfection Reagent (0.25-0.75 µl) per well of the 96-well format to be used for HT RNAi screening.
  • Observe reporter knockdown and toxicity at regular time points over at least a 48 hour period, optimally for 72 hours.

A. Cell Plating Prior to Transfection

  1. At least 24 hours prior to transfection, plate cells at an appropriate cell density in a T-75 cm2 flask or similar tissue culture dish so that the cells will be 70-80% confluent the following day. Approximately, 2-6 x 106cells will be needed per 96-well plate. Multiple flasks may need to be prepared if more than one 96-well plate is to be transfected.
  2. Incubate the cells overnight.

B. Complex Formation for 96-well Plates

  1. In each well of the 96-well plate to be used for transfection, add appropriate amount of serum-free medium (i.e. Opti-MEM® I Reduced Serum Medium) (see Table 1). Note: Alternatively, a mastermix can be prepared in a sterile tube if transfecting the same siRNA throughout the plate. Calculations are shown in Table 1 for 120 wells to account for pipetting errors. If a transfection master mix is prepared, prepare the tansfection mixture as follows (Steps 1-4) and add per well to the 96-well plate using a multi-channel pipettor or liquid handler after complex formation (Step 4).
  2. Add appropriate amount of stock siRNA (see Table 1) to the wells containing the each well of the 96-well plate.
  3. Add appropriate amount of TransIT-TKO® Transfection Reagent to the Opti-MEM® I siRNA mixture (see Table 1).
  4. Incubate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes to allow for the transfection complexes to form. Note: If you are using preprinted siRNA screens, allow for an additional 10 minutes for the reconstitution of the dried printed siRNA. Do not allow complexes to incubate longer than 60 minutes before adding cells as per Step C below.

C. Cell Plating in 96-well Plates

  1. Trypsinize cells in T-75 cm2 flask (from Step A) as per standard tissue culture procedure. Note: To prevent re-adherence of the cells to the flask, perform this step no more than one hour prior to transfection. To further reduce cell culture time, cell plating can also be performed using cryopreserved cell stocks, after they are centrifuged to remove DMSO and counted using Trypan Blue.
  2. Add 5-10 ml of complete media to the cell suspension. Mix thoroughly by pipetting.
  3. Count the cells using a hemacytometer to determine the appropriate volume of cells in media to obtain 1.6-4.8 x 105 cells per ml.
  4. Add 92 µl of diluted cell mixture (1.4-4.4 x 104 cells) to each well. Gently rock the dish back and forth and from side to side to distribute the cells evenly. Do not swirl or rotate the dish, as this may result in uneven distribution.
  5. Incubate 24-48 hours.
  6. Harvest and assay for knockdown of gene expression or other reporter assay.

Table 1. Recommended starting conditions for reverse siRNA transfections with TransIT-TKO® Transfection Reagent

  Volume needed per well of a 96-well plate Total volume needed if preparing a mastermix for a 96-well plate*
Volume of serum free media for transfection complex formation 9 µl 9 x 120 = 1080 µl =1.08 ml
Amount of siRNA needed per well (1 µM stock) (25 nM final) ‡ 2.5 µl 2.5 x 120 = 300 µl
Volume of TransIT-TKO® Transfection Reagent per well ‡ 0.5 µl 0.5 x 120 = 60 µl
Trypsinized cells in complete growth medium 92 µl 92 x 120 = 11,040 ul = 11.04 ml

* The mastermix calculations are based on 120 wells to account for pipetting errors.

‡ If small volumes of TransIT-TKO® and siRNA need to be pipetted, dilute the required volume of reagent and DNA ten-fold in Opti-MEM® I Reduced-Serum Medium before each use to avoid pipetting errors. Do not store diluted TransIT-TKO® Reagent or siRNA stocks.


1. High-throughput RNAi screening in cultured cells: a user's guide. Christophe J. Echeverri & Norbert Perrimon. Nature Reviews Genetics 7, 373-384 (May 2006)

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