The single-step method of RNA isolation by acid guanidinium thiocyanate-phenol-chloroform extraction: twenty-something years on

Nat Protoc. 2006;1(2):581-5. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2006.83.


Since its introduction, the 'single-step' method has become widely used for isolating total RNA from biological samples of different sources. The principle at the basis of the method is that RNA is separated from DNA after extraction with an acidic solution containing guanidinium thiocyanate, sodium acetate, phenol and chloroform, followed by centrifugation. Under acidic conditions, total RNA remains in the upper aqueous phase, while most of DNA and proteins remain either in the interphase or in the lower organic phase. Total RNA is then recovered by precipitation with isopropanol and can be used for several applications. The original protocol, enabling the isolation of RNA from cells and tissues in less than 4 hours, greatly advanced the analysis of gene expression in plant and animal models as well as in pathological samples, as demonstrated by the overwhelming number of citations the paper gained over 20 years.

MeSH terms

  • Chloroform / chemistry*
  • Guanidines / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Phenol / chemistry*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / isolation & purification*
  • Thiocyanates / chemistry*


  • Guanidines
  • Thiocyanates
  • Phenol
  • guanidine thiocyanate
  • RNA
  • Chloroform