Background: There is uncertainty regarding how stable complement analytes are during long-term storage at - 80 °C. As part of our work program we have measured 17 complement biomarkers (C1q, C1 inhibitor, C3, C3a, iC3b, C4, C5, C9, FB, FD, FH, FI, TCC, Bb, sCR1, sCR2, Clusterin) and the benchmark inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in a large set of plasma samples (n = 720) that had been collected, processed and subsequently stored at - 80 °C over a period of 6.6-10.6 years, prior to laboratory analysis. The biomarkers were measured using solid-phase enzyme immunoassays with a combination of multiplex assays using the MesoScale Discovery Platform and single-plex enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). As part of a post hoc analysis of extrinsic factors (co-variables) affecting the analyses we investigated the impact of freezer storage time on the values obtained for each complement analyte.
Results: With the exception of five analytes (C4, C9, sCR2, clusterin and CRP), storage time was significantly correlated with measured plasma concentrations. For ten analytes: C3, FI, FB, FD, C5, sCR1, C3a, iC3b, Bb and TCC, storage time was positively correlated with concentration and for three analytes: FH, C1q, and C1 inhibitor, storage time was negatively correlated with concentration.
Conclusions: The results suggest that information on storage time should be regarded as an important co-variable and taken into consideration when analysing data to look for associations of complement biomarker levels and disease or other outcomes.
Keywords: Biomarker; Complement; Plasma; − 80 °C storage.