Modified Methods for Loading of High-Throughput DNA Extraction Plates Reduce Potential for Contamination

Gordon F. Custer*1,2, Reilly R. Dibner*3,4
* These authors contributed equally
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Abstract

High-throughput DNA sequencing techniques have contributed substantially to advances in our understanding of relationships among microbial communities, host characteristics, and broader ecosystem functions. With this rapid increase in breadth and depth of sequencing capabilities have come methods to extract, amplify, analyze, and interpret environmental DNA successfully with maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, performing DNA extractions quickly can come at the cost of increasing the risk of contamination among samples. In particular, high-throughput extractions that are based on samples contained in a 96-well plate offer a relatively quick method, compared to single-tube extractions, but also increase opportunities for well-to-well cross-contamination. To minimize the risk of cross-contamination among samples, while retaining the benefits of high-throughput extraction techniques, we developed a new method for loading environmental samples into 96-well plates. We used pierceable PCR sealing films to cover each plate while loading samples and added samples first to PCR tubes before moving them into wells; together, these practices reduce the risk of sample drift and unintended double loading of wells. The method outlined in this paper provides researchers with an approach to maximize available high-throughput extraction techniques while reducing the risk of cross-contamination inherent to 96-well plates. We provide a detailed step by step outline of how to move from sample collection to DNA extraction while minimizing the risk of unwanted cross-contamination.