Tips for RT-qPCR gene expression of difficult to analyze paraffin-embedded tissue samples

Fragmented RNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue is a known obstacle to gene expression analysis. In this study, the impact of RNA integrity, gene-specific reverse transcription and targeted cDNA preamplification was quantified in terms of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) sensitivity by measuring 48 protein coding genes on eight duplicate cultured cancer cell pellet FFPE samples and twenty cancer tissue FFPE samples. More intact RNA modestly increased gene detection sensitivity by 1.6 fold (earlier detection by 0.7 PCR cycles, 95% CI = 0.593-0.850). Application of gene-specific priming instead of whole transcriptome priming during reverse transcription further improved RT-qPCR sensitivity by a considerable 4.0 fold increase (earlier detection by 2.0 PCR cycles, 95% CI = 1.73-2.32). Targeted cDNA preamplification resulted in the strongest increase of RT-qPCR sensitivity and enabled earlier detection by an average of 172.4 fold (7.43 PCR cycles, 95% CI = 6.83-7.05). We conclude that gene-specific reverse transcription and targeted cDNA preamplification are adequate methods for accurate and sensitive RT-qPCR based gene expression analysis of FFPE material. The presented methods do not involve expensive or complex procedures and can be easily implemented in any routine RT-qPCR practice.

Straightforward and sensitive RT-qPCR based gene expression analysis of FFPE samples. Zeka, Fjoralba; Vanderheyden, Katrien; De Smet, Els; Cuvelier, Claude A.; Mestdagh, Pieter; Vandesompele, Jo. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 6 10.1038/srep21418 FEB 22 2016