Progress in bioanalytics: Production of RNA chips significantly simplified

A joint press release by the University of Vienna/Faculty of Chemistry and the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB)

RNA chips can contribute to the exploration of new methods to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer

Vienna/Freising, July 26, 2022 - Biochips (microarrays) are modern analytical tools that allow thousands of individual detections to be performed simultaneously in a small amount of sample material. A team led by Mark Somoza from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna has now presented a new method in "Nature Communications". With this method, commercially available DNA chips can be quickly and easily converted into RNA chips, which are otherwise much more difficult to produce. Such RNA microarrays help to elucidate the still unknown functions of RNA molecules in cells - an important prerequisite for advancing the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

DNA and RNA are both nucleic acids; their best known tasks in our cells are the long-term storage of genetic information in the form of DNA, and RNA as an intermediate species in the biosynthesis of proteins. Commercially available DNA microarrays are used by default to perform high-throughput genome analyses. For example, they are regularly used in the diagnosis of various hereditary diseases and cancer. They consist of a solid carrier, for example a small glass plate, on which a large number of different DNA molecules are bound. The special feature is, on the one hand, that for each of these variants their exact position on the surface is known. On the other hand, they can be extremely densely packed, so that hundreds of thousands of different DNA strands can fit on the surface of a thumbnail.

RNA chip production has been difficult up to now

The commercial production of DNA chips is based on the stepwise concatenation of individual DNA building blocks. Although this production method has long been established, it can only be transferred to the synthesis of RNA microarrays to a limited extent. This is because RNA molecules are significantly more unstable. In addition, the individual RNA building blocks bind to each other with less efficiency than their DNA equivalents when building the RNA strand. This effect limits the possible length of the RNA strand. "However, to study the still unknown roles of cellular RNA molecules in particular, chips with significantly longer RNA strands are required than previously achievable with chemical synthesis of RNA microarrays. Our new method now solves this problem," explains first author Erika Schaudy, a young scientist in Mark Somoza's group at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Vienna.

Targeted use of enzymes makes it possible

As the Viennese research team has now shown, the DNA sequences available on commercial chips can be rewritten into their complementary RNA strands in a length-independent manner through the targeted use of enzymes. Further enzymes then selectively degrade the DNA templates resulting in an RNA chip.

"The outstanding thing is that the fabrication method we developed is based solely on commercially available materials and reagents. Specialized laboratory equipment is unnecessary. This now enables researchers from a wide range of disciplines to produce themselves RNA microarrays that are precisely tailored to their scientific questions," says Erika Schaudy.

Mark Somoza, who also heads a research group at the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich, adds: "With this fast and easy-to-perform methodology, we have also created an important basis for further potential applications. For example, RNA technology could equally help to investigate the influence of food compounds on cellular processes and thus human health."

First author Erika Schaudy from the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Vienna was one of 14 young scientists selected to present their research in the "Next Gen Science Session" at the recently concluded Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2022. Her talk from June 27, entitled "Light-Directed Synthesis of Complex Nucleic Acid Libraries," can be viewed here: Video - Next Gen Science (2022) : Presentations by young scientists (

Publication: Schaudy, E., Hölz, K., Lietard, J. & Somoza M.M. (2022). Simple synthesis of massively parallel RNA microarrays via enzymatic conversion from DNA microarrays. Nat Commun 13, 3772. 10.1038/s41467-022-31370-9.

The open access publication is also featured in Nature Communications' "Editor Highlights":


Assoc. Prof. Mark Somoza, PhD
Institute of Inorganic Chemistry
Faculty of Chemistry, University of Vienna;

Währinger Straße 42, 1090 Vienna

Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology
at the Technical University of Munich;

Tel.: +43-1-4277-52643

Dr. Erika Schaudy
Institute of Inorganic Chemistry
University of Vienna
Josef-Holaubek-Platz 2 (UZA II)
1090 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 4277 52644
Email: erika.schaudy(at)

Press contact at the University of Vienna:

Theresa Bittermann
Media Relations, University of Vienna
Universitätsring 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria
E-mail: theresa.bittermann(at)  

Press contact at LSB:

Dr. Gisela Olias
Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology
at the Technical University of Munich (LSB)
Knowledge Transfer, Press and Public Relations
Tel.: +49 8161 71-2980
E-mail: g.olias.leibniz-lsb(at)

Information about the Institute:

The Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB) comprises a new, unique research profile at the interface of Food Chemistry & Biology, Chemosensors & Technology, and Bioinformatics & Machine Learning. As this profile has grown far beyond the previous core discipline of classical food chemistry, the institute spearheads the development of a food systems biology. Its aim is to develop new approaches for the sustainable production of sufficient quantities of food whose biologically active effector molecule profiles are geared to health and nutritional needs, but also to the sensory preferences of consumers. To do so, the institute explores the complex networks of sensorically relevant effector molecules along the entire food production chain with a focus on making their effects systemically understandable and predictable in the long term.

The LSB is a member of the Leibniz Association, which connects 97 independent research institutions. Their orientation ranges from the natural sciences, engineering and environmental sciences through economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities. Leibniz Institutes devote themselves to social, economic and ecological issues. They conduct knowledge-oriented and application-oriented research, also in the overlapping Leibniz research networks, are or maintain scientific infrastructures and offer research-based services. The Leibniz Association focuses on knowledge transfer, especially with the Leibniz Research Museums. It advises and informs politics, science, business and the public. Leibniz institutions maintain close cooperation with universities - among others, in the form of the Leibniz Science Campuses, industry and other partners in Germany and abroad. They are subject to a transparent and independent review process. Due to their national significance, the federal government and the federal states jointly fund the institutes of the Leibniz Association. The Leibniz Institutes employ around 21,000 people, including almost 12,000 scientists. The entire budget of all the institutes is more than two billion euros.

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