Implementing routine monitoring for nuclease contamination of equipment and consumables into the quality Management system of a laboratory

Heliyon. 2024 Jan 11;10(2):e24603. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2024.e24603. eCollection 2024 Jan 30.


Nucleases are ubiquitous in the environment, present in biospecimens and widely used in many laboratory processes. However, in the wrong context, as contaminants, they have catastrophic potential because of their ability to rapidly degrade nucleic acids whilst retaining high resilience to inactivation. Although laboratories undertake rigorous precautions to prevent nuclease contamination, such measures are not infallible. In 2015, we devised and integrated a novel routine nuclease testing regimen into our Quality Management System that uses cleavable, fluorescent DNA and RNA substrates to detect, monitor and control for nuclease contamination in our laboratory processes, equipment and consumables. The testing regimen enables us to identify higher-risk activities, design our laboratory workflows such that risk is minimized and help fulfil our obligations in respect of ISO 20387:2018 General Requirements for Biobanking and ISO 17025 Testing and Calibrations Laboratory standards, both of which stipulate that environmental conditions in our laboratory must be monitored with defined quality control criteria. In seventeen rounds of testing (30 Test Items per round), 1.1 % of RNase tests and 0.2 % of DNase tests returned elevated nuclease levels (≥2.90 x 10-9 U RNase or 1.67 x 10-3 U DNase) and we were able to take remedial action. In no instance was an elevated nuclease level consequential in terms of an impact on sample quality. We present our protocols, results and observations.