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1.  Routes to improving the reliability of low level DNA analysis using real-time PCR 
BMC Biotechnology  2006;6:33.
Accurate quantification of DNA using quantitative real-time PCR at low levels is increasingly important for clinical, environmental and forensic applications. At low concentration levels (here referring to under 100 target copies) DNA quantification is sensitive to losses during preparation, and suffers from appreciable valid non-detection rates for sampling reasons. This paper reports studies on a real-time quantitative PCR assay targeting a region of the human SRY gene over a concentration range of 0.5 to 1000 target copies. The effects of different sample preparation and calibration methods on quantitative accuracy were investigated.
At very low target concentrations of 0.5–10 genome equivalents (g.e.) eliminating any replicates within each DNA standard concentration with no measurable signal (non-detects) compromised calibration. Improved calibration could be achieved by eliminating all calibration replicates for any calibration standard concentration with non-detects ('elimination by sample'). Test samples also showed positive bias if non-detects were removed prior to averaging; less biased results were obtained by converting to concentration, including non-detects as zero concentration, and averaging all values.
Tube plastic proved to have a strongly significant effect on DNA quantitation at low levels (p = 1.8 × 10-4). At low concentrations (under 10 g.e.), results for assays prepared in standard plastic were reduced by about 50% compared to the low-retention plastic. Preparation solution (carrier DNA or stabiliser) was not found to have a significant effect in this study.
Detection probabilities were calculated using logistic regression. Logistic regression over large concentration ranges proved sensitive to non-detected replicate reactions due to amplification failure at high concentrations; the effect could be reduced by regression against log (concentration) or, better, by eliminating invalid responses.
Use of low-retention plastic tubes is advised for quantification of DNA solutions at levels below 100 g.e. For low-level calibration using linear least squares, it is better to eliminate the entire replicate group for any standard that shows non-detects reasonably attributable to sampling effects than to either eliminate non-detects or to assign arbitrary high Ct values. In calculating concentrations for low-level test samples with non-detects, concentrations should be calculated for each replicate, zero concentration assigned to non-detects, and all resulting concentration values averaged. Logistic regression is a useful method of estimating detection probability at low DNA concentrations.
PMCID: PMC1559608  PMID: 16824215
2.  Standardisation of data from real-time quantitative PCR methods – evaluation of outliers and comparison of calibration curves 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:31.
As real-time quantitative PCR (RT-QPCR) is increasingly being relied upon for the enforcement of legislation and regulations dependent upon the trace detection of DNA, focus has increased on the quality issues related to the technique. Recent work has focused on the identification of factors that contribute towards significant measurement uncertainty in the real-time quantitative PCR technique, through investigation of the experimental design and operating procedure. However, measurement uncertainty contributions made during the data analysis procedure have not been studied in detail. This paper presents two additional approaches for standardising data analysis through the novel application of statistical methods to RT-QPCR, in order to minimise potential uncertainty in results.
Experimental data was generated in order to develop the two aspects of data handling and analysis that can contribute towards measurement uncertainty in results. This paper describes preliminary aspects in standardising data through the application of statistical techniques to the area of RT-QPCR. The first aspect concerns the statistical identification and subsequent handling of outlying values arising from RT-QPCR, and discusses the implementation of ISO guidelines in relation to acceptance or rejection of outlying values. The second aspect relates to the development of an objective statistical test for the comparison of calibration curves.
The preliminary statistical tests for outlying values and comparisons between calibration curves can be applied using basic functions found in standard spreadsheet software. These two aspects emphasise that the comparability of results arising from RT-QPCR needs further refinement and development at the data-handling phase. The implementation of standardised approaches to data analysis should further help minimise variation due to subjective judgements. The aspects described in this paper will help contribute towards the development of a set of best practice guidelines regarding standardising handling and interpretation of data arising from RT-QPCR experiments.
PMCID: PMC1326201  PMID: 16336641
3.  An inter-platform repeatability study investigating real-time amplification of plasmid DNA 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:15.
The wide variety of real-time amplification platforms currently available has determined that standardisation of DNA measurements is a fundamental aspect involved in the comparability of results.
Statistical analysis of the data arising from three different real-time platforms was conducted in order to assess inter-platform repeatability. On three consecutive days two PCR reaction mixes were used on each of the three amplification platforms – the LightCycler®, ABI PRISM® 7700 and Rotor Gene 3000™. Real-time PCR amplification using a fluorogenic 5' exonuclease assay was performed in triplicate on negative controls and DNA plasmid dilutions of 108–102 copies to give a total of 24 reactions per PCR experiment.
The results of the statistical analyses indicated that the platform with the most precise repeatability was the ABI PRISM® 7700 when coupled with the FastStart PCR reaction mix. It was also found that there was no obvious relationship between plasmid copy number and repeatability. An ANOVA approach identified the factors that significantly affected the results, in descending order of magnitude, as: plasmid copy number, platform, PCR reaction mix and day (on which the experiment was performed).
In order to deliver useful, informative genetic tests, standardisation of real-time PCR detection platforms to provide repeatable, reliable results is warranted. In addition, a better understanding of inter-assay and intra-assay repeatability is required.
PMCID: PMC1168890  PMID: 15916714

Results 1-3 (3)