The effects of freezing on faecal microbiota as determined using MiSeq sequencing and culture-based investigations

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 6;10(3):e0119355. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119355. eCollection 2015.


Background: High-throughput sequencing has enabled detailed insights into complex microbial environments, including the human gut microbiota. The accuracy of the sequencing data however, is reliant upon appropriate storage of the samples prior to DNA extraction. The aim of this study was to conduct the first MiSeq sequencing investigation into the effects of faecal storage on the microbiota, compared to fresh samples. Culture-based analysis was also completed.

Methods: Seven faecal samples were collected from healthy adults. Samples were separated into fresh (DNA extracted immediately), snap frozen on dry ice and frozen for 7 days at -80°C prior to DNA extraction or samples frozen at -80°C for 7 days before DNA extraction. Sequencing was completed on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Culturing of total aerobes, anaerobes and bifidobacteria was also completed.

Results: No significant differences at phylum or family levels between the treatment groups occurred. At genus level only Faecalibacterium and Leuconostoc were significantly different in the fresh samples compared to the snap frozen group (p = 0.0298; p = 0.0330 respectively). Diversity analysis indicated that samples clustered based on the individual donor, rather than by storage group. No significant differences occurred in the culture-based analysis between the fresh, snap or -80°C frozen samples.

Conclusions: Using the MiSeq platform coupled with culture-based analysis, this study highlighted that limited significant changes in microbiota occur following rapid freezing of faecal samples prior to DNA extraction. Thus, rapid freezing of samples prior to DNA extraction and culturing, preserves the integrity of the microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Cryopreservation*
  • DNA, Bacterial* / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial* / isolation & purification
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Freezing*
  • Humans
  • Leuconostoc / genetics*
  • Male
  • Microbiota*


  • DNA, Bacterial

Grant support

Jennifer Deane is in receipt of a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship. The authors and their work were supported by the Science Foundation Ireland and funded by the Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (SFI-CSET) grant 02/CE/B124 and by FP7 funded CFMATTERS (Cystic Fibrosis Microbiome-determined Antibiotic Therapy Trial in Exacerbations: Results Stratified, Grant Agreement no. 603038). The Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre is a research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). This publication has emanated from research supported in part by a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under Grant Number SFI/12/RC/2273. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.