Research Article| Volume 59, 102711, July 2022

Assessment of human nuclear and mitochondrial DNA qPCR assays for quantification accuracy utilizing NIST SRM 2372a

  • Emily Cropper
    Visiting Scientist Program, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Quantico, VA 22135, USA

    Research and Support Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Quantico, VA 22135, USA

    University of North Texas Health Science Center, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Ft. Worth, TX 76107, USA
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  • Michael D. Coble
    University of North Texas Health Science Center, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Ft. Worth, TX 76107, USA
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  • Mark F. Kavlick
    Correspondence to: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Quantico, VA 22135, USA.
    Research and Support Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Quantico, VA 22135, USA
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      • MtDNA and nDNA qPCR assays were assessed using the NIST SRM 2372a.
      • Accuracy of DNA standards THP, 143B, and dsT8sig was determined.
      • QPCR efficiency, repeatability, and reproducibility of the assays was determined.
      • Inter-assay reproducibility of DNA concentration and degradation for bone extracts was evaluated.


      In forensic DNA casework, a highly accurate real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay is recommended per the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM) (SWGDAM Validation Guidelines for DNA Analysis Methods [

      SWGDAM Validation Guidelines for DNA Analysis Methods, Approved on 12/05/2016. 〈〉.

      ]) to determine whether a DNA sample is of sufficient quantity and robust quality to move forward with downstream short tandem repeats (STR) or sequencing analyses. Most of these assays rely on a standard curve, referred to herein and traditionally as absolute qPCR, in which an unknown is compared, relative to that curve. However, one fundamental issue with absolute qPCR is the quantifiable concentration of commercial assay standards can vary depending on (1) origin, i.e., whether from a cell line or a human subject, (2) supplier, (3) lot number, (4) shipping method, etc. In 2018, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) released a human DNA standard reference material for evaluating qPCR quantification standards, Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2372a, Romsos et al. (2018) [2] which contains three well-characterized human genomic DNA samples: Component A) a single male1 donor, Component B) a single female1 donor, and Component C) a 1:3 male2:female2 donor, each with certification data for nDNA and informational mitochondrial DNA(mtDNA)/nuclear DNA (nDNA) ratio data. The SRM 2372a was used to assess four qPCR assays: (1) Quantifiler Trio (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA) for nDNA quantification, (2) NovaQUANT (EMD Millipore Corporation, San Diego, CA) for nDNA and mtDNA quantification, (3) a custom duplex mtDNA assay, and (4) a custom triplex mtDNA assay. Additionally, extracts from eighteen (18) skeletal remains were tested with the latter three assays for concordance of DNA concentration and with assays (2) and (3), for the degradation state. Our assessment revealed that an accurate, efficient, and reproducible qPCR assay is dependent on (1) the quality and reliability of the DNA standard, (2) the qPCR chemistry, and (3) the specific primers, and probes (if applicable), used in an assay. Our findings indicate qPCR assays may not always quantify as expected and that performance of each lot should be verified using a well-characterized DNA standard such as the NIST SRM 2372a and adjusted if warranted.


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