The Isolation of Nucleic Acids from Fixed, Paraffin-Embedded Tissues-Which Methods Are Useful When?

M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Tamara Haselkorn, Michael Bunce, Juan J. Sanchez, Sebastian B. Lucas, Laurence D. Jewell, Eric van Marck, Michael Worobey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

306 Scopus citations


Museums and pathology collections around the world represent an archive of genetic material to study populations and diseases. For preservation purposes, a large portion of these collections has been fixed in formalin-containing solutions, a treatment that results in cross-linking of biomolecules. Cross-linking not only complicates isolation of nucleic acid but also introduces polymerase "blocks" during PCR. A wide variety of methods exists for the recovery of DNA and RNA from archival tissues, and although a number of previous studies have qualitatively compared the relative merits of the different techniques, very few have undertaken wide scale quantitative comparisons. To help address this issue, we have undertaken a study that investigates the quality of nucleic acids recovered from a test panel of fixed specimens that have been manipulated following a number of the published protocols. These include methods of pre-treating the samples prior to extraction, extraction and nucleic acid purification methods themselves, and a post-extraction enzymatic repair technique. We find that although many of the published methods have distinct positive effects on some characteristics of the nucleic acids, the benefits often come at a cost. In addition, a number of the previously published techniques appear to have no effect at all. Our findings recommend that the extraction methodology adopted should be chosen carefully. Here we provide a quick reference table that can be used to determine appropriate protocols for particular aims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere537
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'The Isolation of Nucleic Acids from Fixed, Paraffin-Embedded Tissues-Which Methods Are Useful When?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this