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1.  Direct Comparison of Flow-FISH and qPCR as Diagnostic Tests for Telomere Length Measurement in Humans 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113747.
Telomere length measurement is an essential test for the diagnosis of telomeropathies, which are caused by excessive telomere erosion. Commonly used methods are terminal restriction fragment (TRF) analysis by Southern blot, fluorescence in situ hybridization coupled with flow cytometry (flow-FISH), and quantitative PCR (qPCR). Although these methods have been used in the clinic, they have not been comprehensively compared. Here, we directly compared the performance of flow-FISH and qPCR to measure leukocytes' telomere length of healthy individuals and patients evaluated for telomeropathies, using TRF as standard. TRF and flow-FISH showed good agreement and correlation in the analysis of healthy subjects (R2 = 0.60; p<0.0001) and patients (R2 = 0.51; p<0.0001). In contrast, the comparison between TRF and qPCR yielded modest correlation for the analysis of samples of healthy individuals (R2 = 0.35; p<0.0001) and low correlation for patients (R2 = 0.20; p = 0.001); Bland-Altman analysis showed poor agreement between the two methods for both patients and controls. Quantitative PCR and flow-FISH modestly correlated in the analysis of healthy individuals (R2 = 0.33; p<0.0001) and did not correlate in the comparison of patients' samples (R2 = 0.1, p = 0.08). Intra-assay coefficient of variation (CV) was similar for flow-FISH (10.8±7.1%) and qPCR (9.5±7.4%; p = 0.35), but the inter-assay CV was lower for flow-FISH (9.6±7.6% vs. 16±19.5%; p = 0.02). Bland-Altman analysis indicated that flow-FISH was more precise and reproducible than qPCR. Flow-FISH and qPCR were sensitive (both 100%) and specific (93% and 89%, respectively) to distinguish very short telomeres. However, qPCR sensitivity (40%) and specificity (63%) to detect telomeres below the tenth percentile were lower compared to flow-FISH (80% sensitivity and 85% specificity). In the clinical setting, flow-FISH was more accurate, reproducible, sensitive, and specific in the measurement of human leukocyte's telomere length in comparison to qPCR. In conclusion, flow-FISH appears to be a more appropriate method for diagnostic purposes.
PMCID: PMC4237503  PMID: 25409313
2.  Multiplex qPCR for Detection and Absolute Quantification of Malaria 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71539.
We describe development of an absolute multiplex quantitative real-time PCR for detection of Plasmodium spp., P. falciparum and P. vivax targets in order to produce an assay amenable to high throughput but with reduced costs. Important qPCR experimental details and information that is critical to performance and reliability of assay results were investigated. Inhibition studies were performed to test and compare co-purification of PCR inhibitors in samples extracted from whole blood using either the manual or automated methods. To establish the most optimal qPCR reaction volume, volume titration of the reaction master mix was performed starting at 10 µl to 1 µl reaction master mix with 1 µl of template DNA in each reaction. As the reaction volume decreased, qPCR assays became more efficient with 1 µl reaction master mix being the most efficient. For more accurate quantification of parasites in a sample, we developed plasmid DNAs for all the three assay targets for absolute quantification. All of absolute qPCR assays performed with efficiency of more than 94%, R2 values greater than 0.99 and the STDEV of each replicate was <0.167. Linear regression plots generated from absolute qPCR assays were used to estimate the corresponding parasite density from relative qPCR in terms of parasite/µl. One copy of plasmid DNA was established to be equivalent to 0.1 parasite/µl for Plasmodium spp. assay, 0.281 parasites for P. falciparum assay and 0.127 parasite/µl for P. vivax assay. This study demonstrates for the first time use of plasmid DNA in absolute quantification of malaria parasite. The use of plasmid DNA standard in quantification of malaria parasite will be critical as efforts are underway to harmonize molecular assays used in diagnosis of malaria.
PMCID: PMC3756973  PMID: 24009663
3.  Empirical evaluation of humpback whale telomere length estimates; quality control and factors causing variability in the singleplex and multiplex qPCR methods 
BMC Genetics  2012;13:77.
Telomeres, the protective cap of chromosomes, have emerged as powerful markers of biological age and life history in model and non-model species. The qPCR method for telomere length estimation is one of the most common methods for telomere length estimation, but has received recent critique for being too error-prone and yielding unreliable results. This critique coincides with an increasing awareness of the potentials and limitations of the qPCR technique in general and the proposal of a general set of guidelines (MIQE) for standardization of experimental, analytical, and reporting steps of qPCR. In order to evaluate the utility of the qPCR method for telomere length estimation in non-model species, we carried out four different qPCR assays directed at humpback whale telomeres, and subsequently performed a rigorous quality control to evaluate the performance of each assay.
Performance differed substantially among assays and only one assay was found useful for telomere length estimation in humpback whales. The most notable factors causing these inter-assay differences were primer design and choice of using singleplex or multiplex assays. Inferred amplification efficiencies differed by up to 40% depending on assay and quantification method, however this variation only affected telomere length estimates in the worst performing assays.
Our results suggest that seemingly well performing qPCR assays may contain biases that will only be detected by extensive quality control. Moreover, we show that the qPCR method for telomere length estimation can be highly precise and accurate, and thus suitable for telomere measurement in non-model species, if effort is devoted to optimization at all experimental and analytical steps. We conclude by highlighting a set of quality controls which may serve for further standardization of the qPCR method for telomere length estimation, and discuss some of the factors that may cause variation in qPCR experiments.
PMCID: PMC3489520  PMID: 22954451
Quantitative PCR; Telomere length; Quality control; Non-model species; Guidelines
4.  Impartial comparative analysis of measurement of leukocyte telomere length/DNA content by Southern blots and qPCR 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(20):e134.
Telomere length/DNA content has been measured in epidemiological/clinical settings with the goal of testing a host of hypotheses related to the biology of human aging, but often the conclusions of these studies have been inconsistent. These inconsistencies may stem from various reasons, including the use of different telomere length measurement techniques. Here, we report the first impartial evaluation of measurements of leukocyte telomere length by Southern blot of the terminal restriction fragments and quantitative PCR (qPCR) of telomere DNA content, expressed as the ratio of telomeric product (T)/single copy gene (S) product. Blind measurements on the same samples from 50 donors were performed in two independent laboratories on two different occasions. Both the qPCR and Southern blots displayed highly reproducible results as shown by r values > 0.9 for the correlations between results obtained by either method on two occasions. The inter-assay CV measurement for the qPCR was 6.45%, while that of the Southern blots was 1.74%. The relation between the results generated by Southern blots versus those generated by qPCR deviated from linearity. We discuss the ramifications of these findings with regard to measurements of telomere length/DNA content in epidemiological/clinical circumstances.
PMCID: PMC3203599  PMID: 21824912
5.  Blood and Dried Blood Spot Telomere Length Measurement by qPCR: Assay Considerations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57787.
Measurement of telomere length is crucial for the study of telomere maintenance and its role in molecular pathophysiology of diseases and in aging. Several methods are used to measure telomere length, the choice of which usually depends on the type and size of sample to be assayed, as well as cost and throughput considerations. The goal of this study was to investigate the factors that may influence the reliability of qPCR-based relative telomere length measurements in whole blood. Day to day intra-individual variability, types of blood anticoagulant, sample storage conditions, processing and site of blood draw were investigated. Two qPCR-based methods to measure telomere length (monoplex vs. multiplex) were also investigated and showed a strong correlation between them. Freezing and thawing of the blood and storage of the blood at 4°C for up to 4 days did not affect telomere length values. Telomere lengths in dried blood spots were significantly higher than both whole blood and peripheral mononuclear blood cells, and were highly correlated with both. We found that telomere length measurements were significantly higher in dried blood spots collected directly from fingertip prick compared to dried blood spots prepared with anticoagulated whole blood collected from the finger, and non-blotted whole blood taken from both finger and arm venipuncture. This suggests that DNA from cells blotted on paper is not equivalent to that collected from venipuncture whole blood, and caution should be taken when comparing between blood sample types.
PMCID: PMC3581490  PMID: 23451268
6.  Association of telomere instability with senescence of porcine cells 
BMC Cell Biology  2012;13:36.
Telomeres are essential for the maintenance of genomic stability, and telomere dysfunction leads to cellular senescence, carcinogenesis, aging, and age-related diseases in humans. Pigs have become increasingly important large animal models for preclinical tests and study of human diseases, and also may provide xeno-transplantation sources. Thus far, Southern blot analysis has been used to estimate average telomere lengths in pigs. Telomere quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (Q-FISH), however, can reveal status of individual telomeres in fewer cells, in addition to quantifying relative telomere lengths, and has been commonly used for study of telomere function of mouse and human cells. We attempted to investigate telomere characteristics of porcine cells using telomere Q-FISH method.
The average telomere lengths in porcine cells measured by Q-FISH correlated with those of quantitative real-time PCR method (qPCR) or telomere restriction fragments (TRFs) by Southern blot analysis. Unexpectedly, we found that porcine cells exhibited high incidence of telomere doublets revealed by Q-FISH method, coincided with increased frequency of cellular senescence. Also, telomeres shortened during subculture of various porcine primary cell types. Interestingly, the high frequency of porcine telomere doublets and telomere loss was associated with telomere dysfunction-induced foci (TIFs). The incidence of TIFs, telomere doublets and telomere loss increased with telomere shortening and cellular senescence during subculture.
Q-FISH method using telomere PNA probe is particularly useful for characterization of porcine telomeres. Porcine cells exhibit high frequency of telomere instability and are susceptible to telomere damage and replicative senescence.
PMCID: PMC3563453  PMID: 23241441
Telomere; Q-FISH; qPCR; Telomere doublets; Telomere dysfunction; Senescence
7.  Comparison of HTLV-I Proviral Load in Adult T Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATL), HTLV-I-Associated Myelopathy (HAM-TSP) and Healthy Carriers 
Objective(s): Human T Lymphocyte Virus Type one (HTLV-I) is a retrovirus that infects about 10-20 million people worldwide. Khorasan province in Iran is an endemic area. The majority of HTLV-I-infected individuals sustain healthy carriers but small proportion of infected population developed two progressive diseases: HAM/TSP and ATL. The proviral load could be a virological marker for disease monitoring, therefore in the present study HTLV-I proviral load has been evaluated in ATL and compared to HAM/TSP and healthy carriers.
Materials and Methods: In this case series study, 47 HTLV-I infected individuals including 13 ATL, 23 HAM/TSP and 11 asymptomatic subjects were studied. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were investigated for presence of HTLV-I DNA provirus by PCR using LTR and Tax fragments. Then in infected subjects, HTLV-I proviral load was measured using real time PCR TaqMan method.
Results: The average age of patients in ATL was 52±8, in HAM/TSP 45.52±15.17 and in carrier’s 38.65±14.9 years which differences were not statistically significant. The analysis of data showed a significant difference in mean WBC among study groups (ATL vs HAM/TSP and carriers P=0.0001). Moreover, mean HTLV-I proviral load was 11967.2 ± 5078, 409 ± 71.3 and 373.6 ± 143.3 in ATL, HAM/TSP and Healthy Carriers, respectively. The highest HTLV-I proviral load was measured in ATL group that had a significant correlation with WBC count (R=0.495, P=0.001). The proviral load variations between study groups was strongly significant (ATL vs carrier P=0.0001; ATL vs HAM/TSP P= 0.0001 and HAM/TSP vs carriers P< 0.05).
Conclusion : The present study demonstrated that HTLV-I proviral load was higher in ATL group in comparison with HAM/TSP and healthy carriers. Therefore, HTLV-I proviral load is a prognostic factor for development of HTLV-I associated diseases and can be used as a monitoring marker for the efficiency of therapeutic regime.
PMCID: PMC3881246  PMID: 24470863
HTLV-I; HAM/TSP; ATL; HTLV-I proviral load
8.  A Mechanistic Model of PCR for Accurate Quantification of Quantitative PCR Data 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12355.
Quantitative PCR (qPCR) is a workhorse laboratory technique for measuring the concentration of a target DNA sequence with high accuracy over a wide dynamic range. The gold standard method for estimating DNA concentrations via qPCR is quantification cycle () standard curve quantification, which requires the time- and labor-intensive construction of a standard curve. In theory, the shape of a qPCR data curve can be used to directly quantify DNA concentration by fitting a model to data; however, current empirical model-based quantification methods are not as reliable as standard curve quantification.
Principal Findings
We have developed a two-parameter mass action kinetic model of PCR (MAK2) that can be fitted to qPCR data in order to quantify target concentration from a single qPCR assay. To compare the accuracy of MAK2-fitting to other qPCR quantification methods, we have applied quantification methods to qPCR dilution series data generated in three independent laboratories using different target sequences. Quantification accuracy was assessed by analyzing the reliability of concentration predictions for targets at known concentrations. Our results indicate that quantification by MAK2-fitting is as reliable as standard curve quantification for a variety of DNA targets and a wide range of concentrations.
We anticipate that MAK2 quantification will have a profound effect on the way qPCR experiments are designed and analyzed. In particular, MAK2 enables accurate quantification of portable qPCR assays with limited sample throughput, where construction of a standard curve is impractical.
PMCID: PMC2930010  PMID: 20814578
9.  Telomere length measurement by a novel monochrome multiplex quantitative PCR method 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(3):e21.
The current quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) assay of telomere length measures telomere (T) signals in experimental DNA samples in one set of reaction wells, and single copy gene (S) signals in separate wells, in comparison to a reference DNA, to yield relative T/S ratios that are proportional to average telomere length. Multiplexing this assay is desirable, because variation in the amount of DNA pipetted would no longer contribute to variation in T/S, since T and S would be collected within each reaction, from the same input DNA. Multiplexing also increases throughput and lowers costs, since half as many reactions are needed. Here, we present the first multiplexed QPCR method for telomere length measurement. Remarkably, a single fluorescent DNA-intercalating dye is sufficient in this system, because T signals can be collected in early cycles, before S signals rise above baseline, and S signals can be collected at a temperature that fully melts the telomere product, sending its signal to baseline. The correlation of T/S ratios with Terminal Restriction Fragment (TRF) lengths measured by Southern blot was stronger with this monochrome multiplex QPCR method (R2 = 0.844) than with our original singleplex method (R2 = 0.677). Multiplex T/S results from independent runs on different days were highly reproducible (R2 = 0.91).
PMCID: PMC2647324  PMID: 19129229
10.  Quantification Bias Caused by Plasmid DNA Conformation in Quantitative Real-Time PCR Assay 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29101.
Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) is the gold standard for the quantification of specific nucleic acid sequences. However, a serious concern has been revealed in a recent report: supercoiled plasmid standards cause significant over-estimation in qPCR quantification. In this study, we investigated the effect of plasmid DNA conformation on the quantification of DNA and the efficiency of qPCR. Our results suggest that plasmid DNA conformation has significant impact on the accuracy of absolute quantification by qPCR. DNA standard curves shifted significantly among plasmid standards with different DNA conformations. Moreover, the choice of DNA measurement method and plasmid DNA conformation may also contribute to the measurement error of DNA standard curves. Due to the multiple effects of plasmid DNA conformation on the accuracy of qPCR, efforts should be made to assure the highest consistency of plasmid standards for qPCR. Thus, we suggest that the conformation, preparation, quantification, purification, handling, and storage of standard plasmid DNA should be described and defined in the Minimum Information for Publication of Quantitative Real-Time PCR Experiments (MIQE) to assure the reproducibility and accuracy of qPCR absolute quantification.
PMCID: PMC3237602  PMID: 22194997
11.  Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS): objectives, design, methodology and implications 
There is a lack of comparable data on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and dietary habits among Arab adolescents, which limits our understanding and interpretation of the relationship between obesity and lifestyle parameters. Therefore, we initiated the Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS). The ATLS is a multicenter collaborative project for assessing lifestyle habits of Arab adolescents. The objectives of the ATLS project were to investigate the prevalence rates for overweight and obesity, physical activity, sedentary activity and dietary habits among Arab adolescents, and to examine the interrelationships between these lifestyle variables. This paper reports on the objectives, design, methodology, and implications of the ATLS.
The ATLS is a school-based cross-sectional study involving 9182 randomly selected secondary-school students (14–19 years) from major Arab cities, using a multistage stratified sampling technique. The participating Arab cities included Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al-Khobar (Saudi Arabia), Bahrain, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Kuwait, Amman (Jordan), Mosel (Iraq), Muscat (Oman), Tunisia (Tunisia) and Kenitra (Morocco). Measured variables included anthropometric measurements, physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep duration, and dietary habits.
The ATLS project will provide a unique opportunity to collect and analyze important lifestyle information from Arab adolescents using standardized procedures. This is the first time a collaborative Arab project will simultaneously assess broad lifestyle variables in a large sample of adolescents from numerous urbanized Arab regions. This joint research project will supply us with comprehensive and recent data on physical activity/inactivity and eating habits of Arab adolescents relative to obesity. Such invaluable lifestyle-related data are crucial for developing public health policies and regional strategies for health promotion and disease prevention.
PMCID: PMC3257970  PMID: 22253540
lifestyle; obesity; physical activity; sedentary behavior; dietary habits
12.  Quantification of type II procollagen splice forms using Alternative Transcript-qPCR (AT-qPCR) 
During skeletal development, the onset of chondrogenic differentiation is marked by expression of the α1(II) procollagen Col2a1) gene. Exon 2 of Col2a1 codes for a cysteine-rich von Willebrand factor C-like domain. Chondroprogenitors express the exon 2-containing IIA and IID splice forms by utilizing adjacent 5′ splice sites separated by 3 base pairs. There is a shift to expression of the shorter, exon 2-lacking IIB splice form with further differentiation. Alternative splicing analysis of Col2a1 splice forms has often relied upon semi-quantitative PCR, using a single set of PCR primers to amplify multiple splice forms. We show that this widely used method is inaccurate due to mismatched amplification efficiency of different-sized PCR products. We have developed the TaqMan®-based AT-qPCR (Alternative Transcript-qPCR) assay to more accurately quantify alternatively spliced mRNA, and demonstrate the measurement of Col2a1 splice form expression in differentiating ATDC5 cells in vitro and in wild type mouse embryonic and postnatal cartilage in vivo. The AT-qPCR assay is based on the use of a multiple amplicon standard (MAS) plasmid, containing a chemically synthesized cluster of splice site-spanning PCR amplicons, to quantify alternative splice forms by standard curve-based qPCR. The MAS plasmid designed for Col2a1 also contained an 18S rRNA amplicon for sample normalization, and an amplicon corresponding to a region spanning exon 52-53 to measure total Col2a1 mRNA. In mouse E12.5 to P70 cartilage, we observed the expected switch between the IIA and IIB splice forms; no IID or IIC splice products were observed. However, in the ATDC5 cultures, predominant expression of the IIA and IID splice forms was found at all times in culture. Additionally, we observed that the sum of the IIA, IIB and IID splice forms comprises only a small fraction of Col2a1 transcripts containing the constitutive exon 52-53 junction. We conclude from our results that the majority of ATDC5 cells in the assay described in this study remained as chondroprogenitors during culture in standard differentiation conditions, and that additional Col2a1 transcripts may be present. The validity of this novel AT-qPCR assay was confirmed by demonstrating the expected Col2a1 isoform expression patterns in vivo in developing mouse cartilage. The ability to measure true levels of procollagen type II splice forms will provide better monitoring of chondrocyte differentiation in other model systems. In addition, the AT-qPCR assay described here could be applied to any gene of interest to detect and quantify known and predicted alternative splice forms and can be scaled up for high throughput assays.
PMCID: PMC3536491  PMID: 22974592
mRNA alternative splicing; quantitative real-time PCR; Col2a1; chondrogenesis; differentiation
13.  American Tegumentary Leishmaniasis: Effectiveness of an Immunohistochemical Protocol for the Detection of Leishmania in Skin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63343.
American tegumentary leishmaniasis (ATL) is endemic in Latin America, where Brazil has over 27 thousand cases per year. The aim of the present study was to develop an immunohistochemical method (IHC) for ATL diagnosis. For this purpose, we used serum from a dog naturally infected with Leishmania (L) infantum (canine hyperimmune serum) as the primary antibody, followed by a detection system with a secondary biotinylated antibody.
Skin samples were obtained from 73 patients in an endemic area of Caratinga, Minas Gerais (MG) State, Brazil all testing positive for ATL with the Montenegro skin test, microscopy, and PCR. Canine hyperimmune serum of a dog naturally infected with Leishmania (L.) infantum was employed as a primary antibody in an immunohistochemical diagnostic method using streptavidin-biotin peroxidase. To assess the specificity of this reaction, IHC assays employing two monoclonal antibodies were carried out. As the polymer-based technology is less time-consuming and labor intensive than the IHC labeled streptavidin-biotin peroxidase method, we compared the two methods for all samples.
The IHC method detected ATL in 67 of the 73 cases (91.8%). Immunolabeled parasites were primarily detected inside macrophages either in the superficial or the deep dermis. Detection was facilitated by the high contrast staining of amastigotes (dark brown) against the light blue background. A lower detection rate (71.2%) was observed with the both of the monoclonal Leishmania antibodies compared to the canine hyperimmune serum. This may have been due to a non-specific background staining observed in all histological samples rendering positive detection more difficult. The higher efficacy of the canine hyperimmune serum in the IHC method was confirmed by the method using streptavidin-biotin peroxidase as well as that with the polymer-based technology (biotin-avidin-free system).
The data are encouraging with regard to validating IHC as a standard alternative method for ATL diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3660443  PMID: 23704900
14.  Telomere length in blood and skeletal muscle in relation to measures of glycaemia and insulinaemia 
Skeletal muscle is a major metabolic organ and plays important roles in glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and insulin action. Muscle telomere length reflects the myocyte's exposure to harmful environmental factors. Leukocyte telomere length is considered a marker of muscle telomere length and is used in epidemiologic studies to assess associations with ageing-related diseases where muscle physiology is important. However, the extent to which leucocyte telomere length and muscle telomere length are correlated is unknown, as are their relative correlations with glucose and insulin concentrations. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of these relationships.
Leucocyte telomere length and muscle telomere length were measured by quantitative real-time PCR in participants from the Malmö Exercise Intervention (MEI; n=27) and the PPP-Botnia studies (n=31). Participants in both studies were free from type 2 diabetes. We assessed the association between leucocyte telomere length, muscle telomere length and metabolic traits using Spearmen correlations and multivariate linear regression. Bland-Altman analysis was used to assess agreement between leucocyte telomere length and muscle telomere length.
In age-, study-, diabetes family history- and sex-adjusted models, leucocyte telomere length and muscle telomere length were positively correlated (r=0.39, 95% CI: 0.15, 0.59). Leucocyte telomere length was inversely associated with 2hr glucose concentrations (r= -0.58, 95% CI: -1.0, -0.16), but there was no correlation between muscle telomere length and 2 hr glucose concentrations (r=0.05, 95% CI: -0.35, 0.46) or between leucocyte telomere length or muscle telomere length with other metabolic traits.
In summary, the current study supports the use of leucocyte telomere length as a proxy for muscle telomere length in epidemiological studies of type 2 diabetes aetiology.
PMCID: PMC3698879  PMID: 22747879
Leukocyte telomere length; muscle telomere length; cardiometabolic; type 2 diabetes; skeletal muscle physiology
15.  Leptin in Whales: Validation and Measurement of mRNA Expression by Absolute Quantitative Real-Time PCR 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54277.
Leptin is the primary hormone in mammals that regulates adipose stores. Arctic adapted cetaceans maintain enormous adipose depots, suggesting possible modifications of leptin or receptor function. Determining expression of these genes is the first step to understanding the extreme physiology of these animals, and the uniqueness of these animals presents special challenges in estimating and comparing expression levels of mRNA transcripts. Here, we compare expression of two model genes, leptin and leptin-receptor gene-related product (OB-RGRP), using two quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) methods: “relative” and “absolute”. To assess the expression of leptin and OB-RGRP in cetacean tissues, we first examined how relative expression of those genes might differ when normalized to four common endogenous control genes. We performed relative expression qPCR assays measuring the amplification of these two model target genes relative to amplification of 18S ribosomal RNA (18S), ubiquitously expressed transcript (Uxt), ribosomal protein 9 (Rs9) and ribosomal protein 15 (Rs15) endogenous controls. Results demonstrated significant differences in the expression of both genes when different control genes were employed; emphasizing a limitation of relative qPCR assays, especially in studies where differences in physiology and/or a lack of knowledge regarding levels and patterns of expression of common control genes may possibly affect data interpretation. To validate the absolute quantitative qPCR methods, we evaluated the effects of plasmid structure, the purity of the plasmid standard preparation and the influence of type of qPCR “background” material on qPCR amplification efficiencies and copy number determination of both model genes, in multiple tissues from one male bowhead whale. Results indicate that linear plasmids are more reliable than circular plasmid standards, no significant differences in copy number estimation based upon background material used, and that the use of ethanol precipitated, linearized plasmid preparation produce the most reliable results.
PMCID: PMC3546977  PMID: 23342116
16.  The Relationship between Telomere Length and Mortality in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35567.
Some have suggested that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease of accelerated aging. Aging is characterized by shortening of telomeres. The relationship of telomere length to important clinical outcomes such as mortality, disease progression and cancer in COPD is unknown. Using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), we measured telomere length of peripheral leukocytes in 4,271 subjects with mild to moderate COPD who participated in the Lung Health Study (LHS). The subjects were followed for approximately 7.5 years during which time their vital status, FEV1 and smoking status were ascertained. Using multiple regression methods, we determined the relationship of telomere length to cancer and total mortality in these subjects. We also measured telomere length in healthy “mid-life” volunteers and patients with more severe COPD. The LHS subjects had significantly shorter telomeres than those of healthy “mid-life” volunteers (p<.001). Compared to individuals in the 4th quartile of relative telomere length (i.e. longest telomere group), the remaining participants had significantly higher risk of cancer mortality (Hazard ratio, HR, 1.48; p = 0.0324) and total mortality (HR, 1.29; p = 0.0425). Smoking status did not make a significant difference in peripheral blood cells telomere length. In conclusion, COPD patients have short leukocyte telomeres, which are in turn associated increased risk of total and cancer mortality. Accelerated aging is of particular relevance to cancer mortality in COPD.
PMCID: PMC3338848  PMID: 22558169
17.  Telomere length varies by DNA extraction method: Implications for epidemiologic research 
Both shorter and longer telomeres in peripheral blood leukocyte (PBL) DNA have been associated with cancer risk. However, associations remain inconsistent across studies of the same cancer type. This study compares DNA preparation methods to determine telomere length from colorectal cancer patients.
We examined PBL relative telomere length (RTL) measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR) in 1,033 colorectal cancer patients and 2,952 healthy controls. DNA was extracted with Phenol/Chloroform, PureGene or QIAamp.
We observed differences in RTL depending on DNA extraction method (p<0.001). Phenol/Chloroform extracted DNA had a mean RTL (T/S ratio) of 0.78 (range 0.01-6.54) ) compared to PureGene extracted DNA (mean RTL of 0.75; range 0.00-12.33). DNA extracted by QIAamp yielded a mean RTL of 0.38 (range 0.02-3.69). We subsequently compared RTL measured by qPCR from an independent set of 20 colorectal cancer cases and 24 normal controls in PBL DNA extracted by each of the three extraction methods. The range of RTL measured by qPCR from QIAamp-extracted DNA (0.17-0.58-) was smaller than from either PureGene or Phenol/Chloroform (ranges:0.04-2.67 and 0.32-2.81, respectively).
RTL measured by qPCR from QIAamp-extracted DNA was smaller than from either PureGene or Phenol/Chloroform (p<0.001).
Differences in DNA extraction method may contribute to the discrepancies between studies seeking to find an association between the risk of cancer or other diseases and RTL.
PMCID: PMC3827976  PMID: 24019396
Telomere length; extraction methods; colorectal cancer
18.  Comparison of a Duplex Quantitative Real-Time PCR Assay and the COBAS Amplicor CMV Monitor Test for Detection of Cytomegalovirus 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(5):1909-1914.
A duplex quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assay was designed to detect both the polymerase gene (pol) and the glycoprotein gene (gB) of cytomegalovirus (CMV). The detection limit of the qPCR was determined to be 1 to 3 copies/reaction and the linear measure interval was 103 to 108 copies/ml. The qPCR system was compared to the COBAS Amplicor CMV Monitor test (COBAS) by an analysis of 138 plasma samples. Both systems detected CMV in 71 cases and had negative results for 33 samples. In addition, 34 samples were positive by qPCR and negative by the COBAS assay, but in no case was the COBAS result positive and the qPCR result negative. Thus, qPCR detected 48% more positive cases than the COBAS method. For samples with ≥105 copies/ml by qPCR, a saturation effect was seen in the COBAS assay and quantification required dilution. Copy numbers for pol and gB by qPCR generally agreed. However, the reproducibility of qPCR assays and the need for an international standard are discussed. Discrepant copy numbers for pol and gB by qPCR were found for samples from two patients, and sequence analysis revealed that the corresponding CMV strains were mismatched at four nucleotide positions compared with the gB fragment primer sequences. In conclusion, a duplex qPCR assay in a real-time format facilitates quantitative measurements and minimizes the risk of false-negative results.
PMCID: PMC404600  PMID: 15131148
19.  An A2A adenosine receptor agonist, ATL313, reduces inflammation and improves survival in murine sepsis models 
The pathophysiology of sepsis is due in part to early systemic inflammation. Here we describe molecular and cellular responses, as well as survival, in A2A adenosine receptor (AR) agonist treated and untreated animals during experimental sepsis.
Sepsis was induced in mice by intraperitoneal inoculation of live bacteria (Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Mice inoculated with live bacteria were treated with an A2A AR agonist (ATL313) or phosphate buffered saline (PBS), with or without the addition of a dose of ceftriaxone. LPS inoculated mice were treated with ATL313 or PBS. Serum cytokines and chemokines were measured sequentially at 1, 2, 4, 8, and 24 hours after LPS was administered. In survival studies, mice were followed until death or for 7 days.
There was a significant survival benefit in mice infected with live E. coli (100% vs. 20%, p = 0.013) or S. aureus (60% vs. 20%, p = 0.02) when treated with ATL313 in conjunction with an antibiotic versus antibiotic alone. ATL313 also improved survival from endotoxic shock when compared to PBS treatment (90% vs. 40%, p = 0.005). The serum concentrations of TNF-α, MIP-1α, MCP-1, IFN-γ, and IL-17 were decreased by ATL313 after LPS injection (p < 0.05). Additionally, ATL313 increased the concentration of IL-10 under the same conditions (p < 0.05). Circulating white blood cell concentrations were higher in ATL313 treated animals (p < 0.01).
Further studies are warranted to determine the clinical utility of ATL313 as a novel treatment for sepsis.
PMCID: PMC2588444  PMID: 18937852
20.  Analysis of telomere length in couples experiencing idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss 
Telomere length plays a significant role in various disorders; however, its role in idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss (iRPL) is not known. The objective of this study was to assess telomere length in peripheral blood leukocytes in couples experiencing unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss (iRPL).
The study included 25 couples experiencing iRPL and 20 controls. The mean relative telomere length was measured by quantitative Real Time PCR (Q-PCR) based assay, which measures the average ratio of telomere repeat copy number to a single copy gene (36B4) copy number (T/S ratio) in each sample.
The relative leukocyte mean telomere length (T/S) in both men and women from iRPL group was significantly lower (p < 0.05) when compared to controls. A significant (P < 0.05) negative correlation was found between age and leukocyte telomere length (T/S ratio). Among the sperm parameters seminal volume was found to be negatively (r = −0.4679) associated with the telomere T/S ratio. The DNA fragmentation index of sperm showed positive correlation (r = 0.4744) with telomere length. In this preliminary study, we found that shorter telomere length in both men and women may be associated with early pregnancy loss.
In conclusion, shorter telomere length in both male and female partners appears to play a role in the idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss. Loss of telomeric DNA due to oxidative stress needs further analysis. Analysis of telomere length in germ cells are needed to further substantiate the findings of this study.
PMCID: PMC3696449  PMID: 23608779
Telomere length; Recurrent pregnancy loss; Q-PCR, Sperm chromatin structure assay; Reactive oxygen species
21.  Quantitative miRNA Expression Analysis Using Fluidigm Microfluidics Dynamic Arrays 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:144.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a growing class of small non-coding RNAs that are important regulators of gene expression in both plants and animals. Studies have shown that miRNAs play a critical role in human cancer and they can influence the level of cell proliferation and apoptosis by modulating gene expression. Currently, methods for the detection and measurement of miRNA expression include small and moderate-throughput technologies, such as standard quantitative PCR and microarray based analysis. However, these methods have several limitations when used in large clinical studies where a high-throughput and highly quantitative technology needed for the efficient characterization of a large number of miRNA transcripts in clinical samples. Furthermore, archival formalin fixed, paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples are increasingly becoming the primary resource for gene expression studies because fresh frozen (FF) samples are often difficult to obtain and requires special storage conditions. In this study, we evaluated the miRNA expression levels in FFPE and FF samples as well as several lung cancer cell lines employing a high throughput qPCR-based microfluidic technology. The results were compared to standard qPCR and hybridization-based microarray platforms using the same samples.
We demonstrated highly correlated Ct values between multiplex and singleplex RT reactions in standard qPCR assays for miRNA expression using total RNA from A549 (R = 0.98; p < 0.0001) and H1299 (R = 0.95; p < 0.0001) lung cancer cell lines. The Ct values generated by the microfluidic technology (Fluidigm 48.48 dynamic array systems) resulted in a left-shift toward lower Ct values compared to those observed by ABI 7900 HT (mean difference, 3.79), suggesting that the microfluidic technology exhibited a greater sensitivity. In addition, we show that as little as 10 ng total RNA can be used to reliably detect all 48 or 96 tested miRNAs using a 96-multiplexing RT reaction in both FFPE and FF samples. Finally, we compared miRNA expression measurements in both FFPE and FF samples by qPCR using the 96.96 dynamic array and Affymetrix microarrays. Fold change comparisons for comparable genes between the two platforms indicated that the overall correlation was R = 0.60. The maximum fold change detected by the Affymetrix microarray was 3.5 compared to 13 by the 96.96 dynamic array.
The qPCR-array based microfluidic dynamic array platform can be used in conjunction with multiplexed RT reactions for miRNA gene expression profiling. We showed that this approach is highly reproducible and the results correlate closely with the existing singleplex qPCR platform at a throughput that is 5 to 20 times higher and a sample and reagent usage that was approximately 50-100 times lower than conventional assays. We established optimal conditions for using the Fluidigm microfluidic technology for rapid, cost effective, and customizable arrays for miRNA expression profiling and validation.
PMCID: PMC3062620  PMID: 21388556
22.  Stepwise kinetic equilibrium models of quantitative polymerase chain reaction 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:203.
Numerous models for use in interpreting quantitative PCR (qPCR) data are present in recent literature. The most commonly used models assume the amplification in qPCR is exponential and fit an exponential model with a constant rate of increase to a select part of the curve. Kinetic theory may be used to model the annealing phase and does not assume constant efficiency of amplification. Mechanistic models describing the annealing phase with kinetic theory offer the most potential for accurate interpretation of qPCR data. Even so, they have not been thoroughly investigated and are rarely used for interpretation of qPCR data. New results for kinetic modeling of qPCR are presented.
Two models are presented in which the efficiency of amplification is based on equilibrium solutions for the annealing phase of the qPCR process. Model 1 assumes annealing of complementary targets strands and annealing of target and primers are both reversible reactions and reach a dynamic equilibrium. Model 2 assumes all annealing reactions are nonreversible and equilibrium is static. Both models include the effect of primer concentration during the annealing phase. Analytic formulae are given for the equilibrium values of all single and double stranded molecules at the end of the annealing step. The equilibrium values are then used in a stepwise method to describe the whole qPCR process. Rate constants of kinetic models are the same for solutions that are identical except for possibly having different initial target concentrations. Analysis of qPCR curves from such solutions are thus analyzed by simultaneous non-linear curve fitting with the same rate constant values applying to all curves and each curve having a unique value for initial target concentration. The models were fit to two data sets for which the true initial target concentrations are known. Both models give better fit to observed qPCR data than other kinetic models present in the literature. They also give better estimates of initial target concentration. Model 1 was found to be slightly more robust than model 2 giving better estimates of initial target concentration when estimation of parameters was done for qPCR curves with very different initial target concentration. Both models may be used to estimate the initial absolute concentration of target sequence when a standard curve is not available.
It is argued that the kinetic approach to modeling and interpreting quantitative PCR data has the potential to give more precise estimates of the true initial target concentrations than other methods currently used for analysis of qPCR data. The two models presented here give a unified model of the qPCR process in that they explain the shape of the qPCR curve for a wide variety of initial target concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3519511  PMID: 22897900
Quantitative polymerase chain reaction; qPCR; Kinetic model
23.  Characteristic expression of HTLV-1 basic zipper factor (HBZ) transcripts in HTLV-1 provirus-positive cells 
Retrovirology  2008;5:34.
HTLV-1 causes adult T-cell leukemia (ATL). Although there have been many studies on the oncogenesis of the viral protein Tax, the precise oncogenic mechanism remains to be elucidated. Recently, a new viral factor, HTLV-1 basic Zip factor (HBZ), encoded from the minus strand mRNA was discovered and the current models of Tax-centered ATL cell pathogenesis are in conflict with this discovery. HBZs consisting of non-spliced and spliced isoforms (HBZ-SI) are thought to be implicated in viral replication and T-cell proliferation but there is little evidence on the HBZ expression profile on a large scale.
To investigate the role of HBZ-SI in HTLV-1 provirus-positive cells, the HBZ-SI and Tax mRNA loads in samples with a mixture of infected and non-infected cells were measured and then adjusted by dividing by the HTLV-I proviral load. We show here that the HBZ-SI mRNA level is 4-fold higher than non-spliced HBZ and is expressed by almost all cells harboring HTLV-1 provirus with variable intensity. The proviral-adjusted HBZ-SI and Tax quantification revealed a characteristic imbalanced expression feature of high HBZ and low Tax expression levels in primary ATL cells or high HBZ and very high Tax levels in HTLV-1-related cell lines (cell lines) compared with a standard expression profile of low HBZ and low Tax in infected cells. Interestingly, according to the mutual Tax and HBZ expression status, HTLV-1-related cell lines were subcategorized into two groups, an ATL cell type with high HBZ and low Tax levels and another type with high Tax and either high or low HBZ, which was closely related to its cell origin.
This is the first comprehensive study to evaluate the mutual expression profile of HBZ and Tax in provirus-positive cells, revealing that there are quantitative and relative characteristic features among infected cells, primary ATL cells, and cell lines.
PMCID: PMC2386809  PMID: 18426605
24.  Simple Absolute Quantification Method Correcting for Quantitative PCR Efficiency Variations for Microbial Community Samples 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(12):4481-4489.
Real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) is a widely used technique in microbial community analysis, allowing the quantification of the number of target genes in a community sample. Currently, the standard-curve (SC) method of absolute quantification is widely employed for these kinds of analysis. However, the SC method assumes that the amplification efficiency (E) is the same for both the standard and the sample target template. We analyzed 19 bacterial strains and nine environmental samples in qPCR assays, targeting the nifH and 16S rRNA genes. The E values of the qPCRs differed significantly, depending on the template. This has major implications for the quantification. If the sample and standard differ in their E values, quantification errors of up to orders of magnitude are possible. To address this problem, we propose and test the one-point calibration (OPC) method for absolute quantification. The OPC method corrects for differences in E and was derived from the ΔΔCT method with correction for E, which is commonly used for relative quantification in gene expression studies. The SC and OPC methods were compared by quantifying artificial template mixtures from Geobacter sulfurreducens (DSM 12127) and Nostoc commune (Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa [CCAP] 1453/33), which differ in their E values. While the SC method deviated from the expected nifH gene copy number by 3- to 5-fold, the OPC method quantified the template mixtures with high accuracy. Moreover, analyzing environmental samples, we show that even small differences in E between the standard and the sample can cause significant differences between the copy numbers calculated by the SC and the OPC methods.
PMCID: PMC3370567  PMID: 22492459
25.  Telomere Length Measurement - caveats and a critical assessment of the available technologies and tools 
Mutation research  2011;730(1-2):59-67.
Studies of telomeres and telomere biology often critically rely on the detection of telomeric DNA and measurements of the length of telomere repeats in either single cells or populations of cells. Several methods are available that provide this type of information and it is often not clear what method is most appropriate to address a specific research question. The major variables that need to be considered are the material that is or can be made available and the accuracy of measurements that is required. The goal of this review is to provide a comprehensive summary of the most commonly used methods and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each. Methods that start with genomic DNA include telomere restriction fragment (TRF) length analysis, PCR amplification of telomere repeats relative to a single copy gene by Q-PCR or MMQPCR and single telomere length analysis (STELA), a PCR-based approach that accurately measures the full spectrum of telomere lengths from individual chromosomes. A different set of methods relies on fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) to detect telomere repeats in individual cells or chromosomes. By including essential calibration steps and appropriate controls these methods can be used to measure telomere repeat length or content in chromosomes and cells. Such methods include quantitative FISH (Q-FISH) and flow FISH which are based on digital microscopy and flow cytometry respectively. Here the basic principles of various telomere length measurement methods are described and their strengths and weaknesses are highlighted. Some recent developments in telomere length analysis are also discussed. The information in this review should facilitate the selection of the most suitable method to address specific research question about telomeres in either model organisms or human subjects.
PMCID: PMC3460641  PMID: 21663926
Telomere length; Flow FISH; Q-PCR; TRF; Q-FISH; STELA

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