Comparative analytical utility of DNA derived from alternative human specimens for molecular autopsy and diagnostics

J Mol Diagn. 2012 Sep;14(5):451-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jmoldx.2012.04.005. Epub 2012 Jul 13.


Genetic testing and research have increased the demand for high-quality DNA that has traditionally been obtained by venipuncture. However, venous blood collection may prove difficult in special populations and when large-scale specimen collection or exchange is prerequisite for international collaborative investigations. Guthrie/FTA card-based blood spots, buccal scrapes, and finger nail clippings are DNA-containing specimens that are uniquely accessible and thus attractive as alternative tissue sources (ATS). The literature details a variety of protocols for extraction of nucleic acids from a singular ATS type, but their utility has not been systematically analyzed in comparison with conventional sources such as venous blood. Additionally, the efficacy of each protocol is often equated with the overall nucleic acid yield but not with the analytical performance of the DNA during mutation detection. Together with a critical in-depth literature review of published extraction methods, we developed and evaluated an all-inclusive approach for serial, systematic, and direct comparison of DNA utility from multiple biological samples. Our results point to the often underappreciated value of these alternative tissue sources and highlight ways to maximize the ATS-derived DNA for optimal quantity, quality, and utility as a function of extraction method. Our comparative analysis clarifies the value of ATS in genomic analysis projects for population-based screening, diagnostics, molecular autopsy, medico-legal investigations, or multi-organ surveys of suspected mosaicisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / isolation & purification*
  • DNA / standards*
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Quality Control
  • Specimen Handling / methods


  • DNA