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BMC Bioinformatics. 2006 Mar 3;7:107.

Evaluation of absolute quantitation by nonlinear regression in probe-based real-time PCR.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tromso, Tromso, Norway. rasmus.goll@unn.no



In real-time PCR data analysis, the cycle threshold (CT) method is currently the gold standard. This method is based on an assumption of equal PCR efficiency in all reactions, and precision may suffer if this condition is not met. Nonlinear regression analysis (NLR) or curve fitting has therefore been suggested as an alternative to the cycle threshold method for absolute quantitation. The advantages of NLR are that the individual sample efficiency is simulated by the model and that absolute quantitation is possible without a standard curve, releasing reaction wells for unknown samples. However, the calculation method has not been evaluated systematically and has not previously been applied to a TaqMan platform.


To develop and evaluate an automated NLR algorithm capable of generating batch production regression analysis.


Total RNA samples extracted from human gastric mucosa were reverse transcribed and analysed for TNFA, IL18 and ACTB by TaqMan real-time PCR. Fluorescence data were analysed by the regular CT method with a standard curve, and by NLR with a positive control for conversion of fluorescence intensity to copy number, and for this purpose an automated algorithm was written in SPSS syntax. Eleven separate regression models were tested, and the output data was subjected to Altman-Bland analysis. The Altman-Bland analysis showed that the best regression model yielded quantitative data with an intra-assay variation of 58% vs. 24% for the CT derived copy numbers, and with a mean inter-method deviation of x 0.8.


NLR can be automated for batch production analysis, but the CT method is more precise for absolute quantitation in the present setting. The observed inter-method deviation is an indication that assessment of the fluorescence conversion factor used in the regression method can be improved. However, the versatility depends on the level of precision required, and in some settings the increased cost effectiveness of NLR may justify the lower precision.

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