Mining the Archives: A Cross-Platform Analysis of Gene Expression Profiles in Archival Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded (FFPE) Tissue


Toxicological Sciences. 2015;148(2):460-472

Abstract: Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples represent a potentially invaluable resource for transcriptomic research. However, use of FFPE samples in genomic studies has been limited by technical challenges resulting from nucleic acid degradation. Here we evaluated gene expression profiles derived from fresh-frozen (FRO) and FFPE mouse liver tissuespreserved in formalin for different amounts of time using 2 DNA microarray protocols and 2 whole-transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) library preparation methodologies. The ribo-depletion protocol outperformed the other methods by having the highest correlations of differentially expressed genes (DEGs), and best overlap of pathways, between FRO and FFPE groups. The effect of sample time in formalin (18 h or 3 weeks) on gene expression profiles indicated that test article treatment, not preservation method, was the main driver of gene expression profiles. Meta- and pathway analyses indicated that biological responses were generally consistent for 18 h and 3 week FFPE samples compared with FRO samples. However, clear erosion of signal intensity with time in formalin was evident, and DEG numbers differed by platform and preservation method. Lastly, we investigated the effect of time in paraffin on genomic profiles. Ribo-depletion RNA-seq analysis of 8-, 19-, and 26-year-old control blocks resulted in comparable quality metrics, including expected distributions of mapped reads to exonic, untranslated region, intronic, and ribosomal fractions of the transcriptome. Overall, our results indicate that FFPE samples are appropriate for use in genomic studies in which frozen samples are not available, and that ribo-depletion RNA-seq is the preferred method for this type of analysisin archival and long-aged FFPE samples.

To view the full citation, click here.