Quantitation of genomic DNA in plasma and serum samples: higher concentrations of genomic DNA found in serum than in plasma

Transfusion. 2001 Feb;41(2):276-82. doi: 10.1046/j.1537-2995.2001.41020276.x.


Background: Plasma and serum samples have been used to detect cell-free genomic DNA in serum or plasma in certain pathologic conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus, pulmonary embolism, and malignancies, as well as in fetal cell chimerisms in maternal serum and/or plasma. In this study, baseline concentrations of cell-free DNA in serum and plasma samples were evaluated for the study of posttransfusion chimerism.

Study design and methods: DNA was extracted from fresh or stored (4 degrees C for 1-6 days) normal donor serum or plasma samples (ACD; EDTA) by using reagents from an HIV assay kit. After incubation and washing of samples, purified DNA was amplified with HLA DQ-alpha primers (GH26 and 27) or human Y-chromosome primers (SA and SD) to quantitate the concentration of genomic DNA.

Results: Fresh serum samples had concentrations of cell-free DNA that were about 20-fold higher than the concentrations in fresh plasma samples. The concentration of cell-free genomic DNA in serum samples increased daily, to a level more than 100 times baseline after clotted blood tubes were stored at 4 degrees C for 4 to 5 days. There was a small increase in cell-free plasma DNA in stored ACD whole blood samples. Male WBCs, spiked into fresh nonanticoagulated female blood, were lysed during the process of clotting, with male DNA liberated into the serum samples.

Conclusion: Most cell-free DNA in serum samples is generated during the process of clotting in the original collection tube. The concentration of cell-free genomic DNA in fresh plasma is probably the same as that in circulation. Consequently, while serum samples should not be used to monitor the concentration of cell-free DNA in a patient's circulation, serum collected from sample tubes containing clots (i.e., without anticoagulant), 3 to 5 days after the date of phlebotomy, could be useful as a source of DNA with which to screen for posttransfusion microchimerism.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Donors
  • Cell-Free System / chemistry
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / blood
  • DNA / blood*
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / blood
  • HIV Seropositivity / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Plasma / chemistry*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pulmonary Embolism / blood


  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • DNA