Extracting DNA from FFPE tissue biospecimens using user-friendly automated technology: Is there an impact on yield or quality?
DNA extracted from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue blocks is amenable to analytical techniques, including sequencing. DNA extraction protocols are typically long and complex, often involving an overnight proteinase K digest. Automated platforms that shorten and simplify the process are therefore an attractive proposition for users wanting a faster turn-around or to process large numbers of biospecimens. It is, however, unclear whether automated extraction systems return poorer DNA yields or quality than manual extractions performed by experienced technicians. We extracted DNA from 42 FFPE clinical tissue biospecimens using the QiaCube (Qiagen) and ExScale (ExScale Biospecimen Solutions) automated platforms, comparing DNA yields and integrities with those from manual extractions. The QIAamp DNA FFPE Spin Column Kit was used for manual and QiaCube DNA extractions and the ExScale extractions were performed using two of the manufacturer's magnetic bead kits: one extracting DNA only and the other simultaneously extracting DNA and RNA. In all automated extraction methods, DNA yields and integrities (assayed using DNA Integrity Numbers from a 4200 TapeStation and the qPCR-based Illumina FFPE QC Assay) were poorer than in the manual method, with the QiaCube system performing better than the ExScale system. However, ExScale was fastest, offered the highest reproducibility when extracting DNA only, and required the least intervention or technician experience. Thus, the extraction methods have different strengths and weaknesses, would appeal to different users with different requirements, and therefore, we cannot recommend one method over another.