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BMC Biotechnol. 2007 Sep 13;7:57.

Characterization of the effect of sample quality on high density oligonucleotide microarray data using progressively degraded rat liver RNA.

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Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD, USA.



The interpretability of microarray data can be affected by sample quality. To systematically explore how RNA quality affects microarray assay performance, a set of rat liver RNA samples with a progressive change in RNA integrity was generated by thawing frozen tissue or by ex vivo incubation of fresh tissue over a time course.


Incubation of tissue at 37 degrees C for several hours had little effect on RNA integrity, but did induce changes in the transcript levels of stress response genes and immune cell markers. In contrast, thawing of tissue led to a rapid loss of RNA integrity. Probe sets identified as most sensitive to RNA degradation tended to be located more than 1000 nucleotides upstream of their transcription termini, similar to the positioning of control probe sets used to assess sample quality on Affymetrix GeneChip(R) arrays. Samples with RNA integrity numbers less than or equal to 7 showed a significant increase in false positives relative to undegraded liver RNA and a reduction in the detection of true positives among probe sets most sensitive to sample integrity for in silico modeled changes of 1.5-, 2-, and 4-fold.


Although moderate levels of RNA degradation are tolerated by microarrays with 3'-biased probe selection designs, in this study we identify a threshold beyond which decreased specificity and sensitivity can be observed that closely correlates with average target length. These results highlight the value of annotating microarray data with metrics that capture important aspects of sample quality.

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