DNA Concentration Determination

For many applications in cloning and genome editing, it is critical to accurately measure the concentration of DNA in a sample. This page explains the most commonly used methods for measuring DNA (or RNA) concentrations and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Overview

Method Qubit NanoDrop Gel Electrophoresis
Range BR: 1-100 ng/l
HS: 0.05-60
5-3000 (ng/l) 30-125 ng
Advantages Most accurate; robust to contaminants Quickest; largest dynamic range Robust to contaminants; can measure DNA subspecies
Disadvantages Requires 2 point standard curve to measure even one sample Instrument not in our lab Most time consuming

Qubit 2.0 Fluorometer

Qubit.jpg

choice-yes Recommended Method

The Qubit spectrophotometer uses a DNA dye whose fluorescence changes upon DNA (or DNA binding). It relies on reading two standards for calibration every time that you make measurements. Two main protocols exist for determining DNA concentration, depending on whether you want to be able to measure samples over a Broad Range (BR) or with a high High Sensitivity (HR) for lower DNA concentrations.The protocols are identical, but require the use of different buffer, dye, and standards. The correct protocol to use will be based on expected concentration, but for most work, BR is appropriate.

Qubit Instrument locations:

  • We have a Qubit 2.0 unit in both the MBB and WEL labs.

Sample Assumptions:

  • You have double-stranded DNA.
    Other Qubit kits must be used to accurately determine the concentrations of single-stranded DNA or RNA because they interact with the fluorescent dyes differently.
  • From 1 to 20 l of DNA sample is required, with 2 l being the amount typically used by the lab.

Additional Resources

DNA BR (Broad Range) Protocol

  • With this assay, the instrument can read diluted concentrations between 10pg/l and 10ng/l.
    • Maximum detection window: 0.1ng/l to 2,000ng/l (with decreased confidence above 1,000ng/l) for 20l and 1l sample respectively.
    • Typical detection window: 1ng/l to 1,000ng/l (with decreased confidence above 500ng/l) for 2l of sample.

  1. Make working stock by diluting 1l of BR dye into 199l dsDNA BR Buffer for each sample and standard.
    • be sure to make enough working stop for all your samples plus 2 standards.
  2. Aliquot 190 l working stock into Qubit tubes for both standards.
  3. Aliquot 198 l working stock into Qubit tubes for each sample.
  4. Add 10 l of appropriate standard to each standard tube. Briefly vortex after adding.
    ALERT! Should be done before samples to ensure at least 3 minute incubation at RT
  5. Add 2 l of each sample to each sample tube. Briefly votrex after adding.
  6. On the instrument select home on the bottom left, then select dsDNA BR assay, and yes to reading new standards
    TIP If intending to transfer data to memory card, it is best to clear the data first by selecting data on the bottom right and then clear data.
  7. Follow on-screen instructions to read both standards and first sample.
    ALERT! Temperature affects the assay, so avoid warming the tubes by holding them excessively in your hands prior to placing them in the instrument, and select 'read' quickly after
    1. After first sample is read, the units and dilution factor can be entered by selecting 'calculate stock concentration'
    2. selecting 'save' will allow easy transfer to a usb memory card after all samples are read.
  8. Continue reading all samples.
  9. If transferring to memory card, select Data from bottom right, memory stick icon will have a green circle next to it, select all data to be transferred (check box top left can be very helpful) and click the usb memory card icon.

DNA HS (High Sensitivity) Protocol

  • With this assay, the instrument can read diluted concentrations in the range 1-500pg/l.
    • Maximum detection window: 0.005ng/l to 120ng/l (with decreased confidence below 0.01ng/l and above 100ng/l) for 20l and 1l sample respectively.
    • Typical detection window: 0.05ng/l to 60ng/l (with decreased confidence below 0.1ng/l above 50ng/l) for 2l of sample.
  1. Same protocol as BR, just substitute HS dye, and dsDNA HS buffer for the working stock, and be sure to use the HS standards instead of the BR standards

NanoDrop

Nanodrop.jpg

The NanoDrop is a DNA spectrophotometer that can be used to measure absorbance in samples with very small volumes (1-2 l). Measuring absorbance is a more flexible method than the nucleic acids dyes used by the Qubit it works with anything that absorbs light at a specific wavelength. This is advantageous because one can estimate the purity of a DNA sample relative to contaminating salts and proteins. However, it also means that these substances can interfere with the signal for nucleic acids and that this can lead to less-accurate measurements of DNA concentration. In addition, absorbance-based measurements cannot discriminate between double-stranded DNA and residual free nucleotides or RNA that may be present after performing enzymatic reactions (whereas Gel Electrophoresis can, and the Qubit dyes also can at least to some extent discriminate between double-stranded DNA and RNA or nucleotides).

warning Using the NanoDrop to measure DNA concentrations is not recommended for:

  • DNA samples purified after cutting out a band from an agarose gel.
  • Measuring the concentrations of DNA samples for next-gen sequencing.
  • Other cases where the DNA sample is very dilute relative to buffer or protein concentrations.

NanoDrop Instrument locations:

  • Zhang lab (WEL) Requires no login information, but does require a key to the Zhang lab.
  • DNA Sequencing Core (MBB) Login information is your personal EID and password.

Assumptions:

  • 1 l of sample required, capable of determining concentration between 5 ng/l and 3,000 ng/l according to manufacturer
    • 1 l vs 2 l of sample does not seem to make a difference in readings
  • warning Concentration determination by NanoDrop may be affected by salts, solvents, and proteins present in the sample.
    • Looking at 260/280 (nucleic acid to protein) and 260/230 (nucleic acid to salt) ratios can give idea of contamination from these sources, but ratios only indicate problem.
    • For a pur DNA sample, one expects a
    • If a sample has a very poor 260/230 ratio (<1.0) then you may be greatly overestimating the concentration of your DNA because the "tail" of the salt reading will overlap and "swamp" the reading corresponding to nucleic acid at 260 nm.

NanoDrop Protocol

  1. Take samples, pipette tips, and tube of blank solution (typically water or elution buffer depending on what your DNA was eluted in) to the NanoDrop.
  2. Log into computer and rinse pedestal and arm with dH2O. Dry with a Kimwipe.
  3. Initialize the NanoDrop 1000 software by double clicking on the NanoDrop icon.
  4. Select 'Nucleic Acid'
  5. Pipette 1 l liquid from blank tube onto pedestal and lower the arm.
  6. Hit 'ok' on computer to blank the instrument
  7. Use a Kimwipe to dry the pedestal. Reload a fresh 1l aliquot from blank tube onto pedestal, and lower arm back down.
  8. Select Re-Blank from the top left of the window.
  9. Use Kimwipe to dry pedestal. Load 1 l of sample onto pedestal and lower the arm.
  10. Enter sample name on the right hand side of the window, and select 'Measure' on the top left.
  11. Inspect the curve to ensure it consists of a high reading on the left, a dip, another peak, and then a slope to the baseline.
  12. Record concentration of sample in your lab notebook.
    TIP If measuring multiple samples, you can wait until the end and use the 'report - show report - save report - save as csv table' option to have a record of all estimated DNA concentrations and the 260/280 260/230 ratios.
  13. Repeat drying and loading of samples till done.

Agarose Gel Electrophoresis

GelElectrophoresis.png

Running your DNA sample on an agarose gel and staining with SybrSafe can also be used to accurately measure DNA concentrations. An advantage of this technique is that salt, free nucleotide, RNA, or even incorrect PCR products of different sizes do not interfere with the concentration that you determine. The main disadvantage is the additional time that it takes to run and analyze the gel image. Also, gels do not have a very great dynamic range (30-125 ng), so you may need to load different concentrations of your sample to stay in the correct range for DNA concentration determination.

Agarose Gel Electrophoresis Protocol

  1. Pour agarose gel.
    • Percentage of the gel should be based on range of linear separation.
  2. Be sure to use a ladder with known amounts of each size marker (for instance the 1 kb NEB marker).
  3. Load different amounts of DNA such that you estimate that at least 1 well has between 30 ng and 125 ng of DNA.
  4. Run the gel until you achieve good separation of marker.
  5. Take image of gel on imager.
    ALERT! Remember that low percentage gels will diffuse quickly necessitating a quick return to electrophoresis if needed.
  6. Estimate the amount of DNA in each well (ng) as compared to known quantities of different bands.
    The imager software has a way of creating a standard curve and estimating concentrations from it.
  7. Determine the concentration of DNA (ng/l) from your measured quantity (ng) based on number of l loaded in each well.


This topic: Lab > WebHome > ProtocolList > DNAConcentrationDetermination
Topic revision: r15 - 18 Feb 2016 - 17:22:10 - Main.JeffreyBarrick