microRNA Biomarker Discovery and High-Throughput DNA Sequencing Are Possible Using Long-term Archived Serum Samples

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Sep;24(9):1381-7. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0289. Epub 2015 Jun 24.


Background: The impacts of long-term storage and varying preanalytical factors on the quality and quantity of DNA and miRNA from archived serum have not been fully assessed. Preanalytical and analytical variations and degradation may introduce bias in representation of DNA and miRNA and may result in loss or corruption of quantitative data.

Methods: We have evaluated DNA and miRNA quantity, quality, and variability in samples stored up to 40 years using one of the oldest prospective serum collections in the world, the Janus Serumbank, a biorepository dedicated to cancer research.

Results: miRNAs are present and stable in archived serum samples frozen at -25°C for at least 40 years. Long-time storage did not reduce miRNA yields; however, varying preanalytical conditions had a significant effect and should be taken into consideration during project design. Of note, 500 μL serum yielded sufficient miRNA for qPCR and small RNA sequencing and on average 650 unique miRNAs were detected in samples from presumably healthy donors. Of note, 500 μL serum yielded sufficient DNA for whole-genome sequencing and subsequent SNP calling, giving a uniform representation of the genomes.

Conclusions: DNA and miRNA are stable during long-term storage, making large prospectively collected serum repositories an invaluable source for miRNA and DNA biomarker discovery.

Impact: Large-scale biomarker studies with long follow-up time are possible utilizing biorepositories with archived serum and state-of-the-art technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Blood Banks
  • Blood Specimen Collection
  • Cryopreservation*
  • DNA / analysis*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs
  • DNA