Elimination of bacterial DNA during RNA isolation from sputum: Bashing bead vortexing is preferable over prolonged DNase treatment

Csilla Paska, I. Barta, Orsolya Drozdovszky, B. Antus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Sputum often contains large amounts of contaminating bacterial DNA that, if not eliminated during RNA isolation, may interfere with gene expression studies. During RNA isolation only repeated DNase treatment can effectively remove contaminating bacterial DNA from samples, but this compromises RNA quality. In this study we tested alternative methods to facilitate the removal of DNA and improve the quality of RNA obtained. Sputum samples obtained from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were processed with dithiothreitol and subjected to various RNA isolation methods, yet with modified protocols. Modifications included prolonged DNase treatment or vortexing of sputum cells in the presence of beads prior to RNA isolation. Bacterial DNA contamination was tested by PCR using universal bacterial primers, while RNA quality was assessed by real-time PCR using GAPDH primers for amplicons of different length. We found that the RNeasy Plus Mini kit equipped with the gDNA eliminator spin column was able to completely eliminate bacterial DNA, if sputum cells were lysed in the presence of bashing beads. Notably, compared with the standard protocol, the modified procedure yielded better quality RNA as well, as indicated by improved threshold profiles of qPCR. Bead vortexing of cells was less effective when combined with other RNA isolation methods, and the repeated DNase treatment needed to completely remove contaminating DNA from the samples reduced the quality of RNA markedly. Bead vortexing in combination with certain RNA extraction methods greatly facilitates the isolation of sputum RNA that is free of contaminating bacterial DNA, and is suitable for downstream applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0214609
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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