Lowering the quantification limit of the QubitTM RNA HS Assay using RNA spike-in

Xin Li, Iddo Z. Ben-Dov, Maurizio Mauro, Zev Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: RNA quantification is often a prerequisite for most RNA analyses such as RNA sequencing. However, the relatively low sensitivity and large sample consumption of traditional RNA quantification methods such as UV spectrophotometry and even the much more sensitive fluorescence-based RNA quantification assays, such as the Qubit™ RNA HS Assay, are often inadequate for measuring minute levels of RNA isolated from limited cell and tissue samples and biofluids. Thus, there is a pressing need for a more sensitive method to reliably and robustly detect trace levels of RNA without interference from DNA. Methods: To improve the quantification limit of the Qubit™ RNA HS Assay, we spiked-in a known quantity of RNA to achieve the minimum reading required by the assay. Samples containing trace amounts of RNA were then added to the spike-in and measured as a reading increase over RNA spike-in baseline. We determined the accuracy and precision of reading increases between 1 and 20 pg/μL as well as RNA-specificity in this range, and compared to those of RiboGreen®, another sensitive fluorescence-based RNA quantification assay. We then applied Qubit™ Assay with RNA spike-in to quantify plasma RNA samples. Results: RNA spike-in improved the quantification limit of the Qubit™ RNA HS Assay 5-fold, from 25 pg/μL down to 5 pg/μL while maintaining high specificity to RNA. This enabled quantification of RNA with original concentration as low as 55.6 pg/μL compared to 250 pg/μL for the standard assay and decreased sample consumption from 5 to 1 ng. Plasma RNA samples that were not measurable by the Qubit™ RNA HS Assay were measurable by our modified method. Conclusions: The Qubit™ RNA HS Assay with RNA spike-in is able to quantify RNA with high specificity at 5-fold lower concentration and uses 5-fold less sample quantity than the standard Qubit™ Assay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalBMC Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 6 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Lower quantification limit
  • Minimum RNA concentration
  • Plasma RNA
  • Qubit™ RNA HS Assay
  • RNA quantification
  • RNA spike-in

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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