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BMC Mol Biol. 2007 Nov 29;8:108.

Long-term stability of RNA in post-mortem bovine skeletal muscle, liver and subcutaneous adipose tissues.

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  • 1UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.



Recovering high quality intact RNA from post-mortem tissue is of major concern for gene expression studies in animals and humans. Since the availability of post-mortem tissue is often associated with substantial delay, it is important that we understand the temporal variation in the stability of total RNA and of individual gene transcripts so as to be able to appropriately interpret the data generated from such studies. Hence, the objective of this experiment was to qualitatively and quantitatively assess the integrity of total and messenger RNA extracted from bovine skeletal muscle, subcutaneous adipose tissue and liver stored at 4 degrees C at a range of time points up to 22 days post-mortem. These conditions were designed to mimic the environment prevailing during the transport of beef from the abattoir to retail outlets.


The 28S and 18S rRNA molecules of total RNA were intact for up to 24 h post-mortem in liver and adipose tissues and up to 8 days post-mortem in skeletal muscle. The mRNA of housekeeping genes (GAPDH and ACTB) and two diet-related genes (RBP5 and SCD) were detectable up to 22 days post-mortem in skeletal muscle. While the mRNA stability of the two housekeeping genes was different in skeletal muscle and liver, they were similar to each other in adipose tissue. After 22 days post-mortem, the relative abundance of RBP5 gene was increased in skeletal muscle and in adipose tissue and decreased in liver. During this period, the relative abundance of SCD gene also increased in skeletal muscle whereas it decreased in both adipose tissue and liver.


Stability of RNA in three tissues (skeletal muscle, subcutaneous adipose tissue and liver) subjected to long-term post-mortem storage at refrigeration temperature indicated that skeletal muscle can be a suitable tissue for recovering biologically useful RNA for gene expression studies even if the tissue is subjected to post-mortem storage for weeks, whereas adipose tissue and liver should be processed within 24 hours post-mortem.

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