Formaldehyde substitute fixatives: Effects on nucleic acid preservation

Cathy B. Moelans, Daphne Oostenrijk, Michiel J. Moons, Paul J. Van Diest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Aims: In surgical pathology, formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues are increasingly being used as a source of DNA and RNA for molecular assays in addition to histopathological evaluation. However, the commonly used formalin fixative is carcinogenic, and its crosslinking impairs DNA and RNA quality. Methods: The suitability of three new presumably less toxic, crosslinking (F-Solv) and non-crosslinking (FineFIX, RCL2) alcohol-based fixatives was tested for routine molecular pathology in comparison with neutral buffered formalin (NBF) as gold standard. Size ladder PCR, epidermal growth factor receptor sequence analysis, microsatellite instability (MSI), chromogenic (CISH), fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and qPCR were performed. Results: The alcohol-based non-crosslinking fixatives (FineFIX and RCL2) resulted in a higher DNA yield and quality compared with crosslinking fixatives (NBF and F-Solv). Size ladder PCR resulted in a shorter amplicon size (300 bp) for both crosslinking fixatives compared with the non-crosslinking fixatives (400 bp). All four fixatives were directly applicable for MSI and epidermal growth factor receptor sequence analysis. All fixatives except F-Solv showed clear signals in CISH and FISH. RNA yield and quality were superior after non-crosslinking fixation. qPCR resulted in lower Ct values for RCL2 and FineFIX. Conclusion: The alcohol-based non-crosslinking fixatives performed better than crosslinking fixatives with regard to DNA and RNA yield, quality and applicability in molecular diagnostics. Given the higher yield, less starting material may be necessary, thereby increasing the applicability of biopsies for molecular studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)960-967
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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