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J Mol Diagn. 2010 Jul;12(4):409-17. doi: 10.2353/jmoldx.2010.090155. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Quantitative expression profiling in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples by affymetrix microarrays.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Research Institute and Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA.


To date, few studies have systematically characterized microarray gene expression signal performance with degraded RNA from fixed (FFPE) in comparison with intact RNA from unfixed fresh-frozen (FF) specimens. RNA was extracted and isolated from paired tumor and normal samples from both FFPE and FF kidney, lung, and colon tissue specimens and microarray signal dynamics on both the raw probe and probeset level were evaluated. A contrast metric was developed to directly compare microarray signal derived from RNA extracted from matched FFPE and FF specimens. Gene-level summaries were then compared to determine the degree of overlap in expression profiles. RNA extracted from FFPE material was more degraded and fragmented than FF, resulting in a reduced dynamic range of expression signal. In addition, probe performance was not affected uniformly and declined sharply toward 5' end of genes. The most significant differences in FFPE versus FF signal were consistent across three tissue types and enriched with ribosomal genes. Our results show that archived FFPE samples can be used to profile for expression signatures and assess differential expression similar to unfixed tissue sources. This study provides guidelines for application of these methods in the discovery, validation, and clinical application of microarray expression profiling with FFPE material.

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