Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Improved coverage of cDNA-AFLP by sequential digestion of immobilized cDNA

Arne Weiberg1, Dirk Pöhler2, Burkhard Morgenstern2 and Petr Karlovsky1*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Phytopathology and Mycotoxin Research Division, University of Goettingen, Grisebachstrasse 6, 37077 Goettingen, Germany

2 Department for Bioinformatics, University of Goettingen, Goldschmidtstrasse 1, 37077 Goettingen, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2008, 9:480  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-480

Published: 13 October 2008



cDNA-AFLP is a transcriptomics technique which does not require prior sequence information and can therefore be used as a gene discovery tool. The method is based on selective amplification of cDNA fragments generated by restriction endonucleases, electrophoretic separation of the products and comparison of the band patterns between treated samples and controls. Unequal distribution of restriction sites used to generate cDNA fragments negatively affects the performance of cDNA-AFLP. Some transcripts are represented by more than one fragment while other escape detection, causing redundancy and reducing the coverage of the analysis, respectively.


With the goal of improving the coverage of cDNA-AFLP without increasing its redundancy, we designed a modified cDNA-AFLP protocol. Immobilized cDNA is sequentially digested with several restriction endonucleases and the released DNA fragments are collected in mutually exclusive pools. To investigate the performance of the protocol, software tool MECS (Multiple Enzyme cDNA-AFLP Simulation) was written in Perl. cDNA-AFLP protocols described in the literatur and the new sequential digestion protocol were simulated on sets of cDNA sequences from mouse, human and Arabidopsis thaliana. The redundancy and coverage, the total number of PCR reactions, and the average fragment length were calculated for each protocol and cDNA set.


Simulation revealed that sequential digestion of immobilized cDNA followed by the partitioning of released fragments into mutually exclusive pools outperformed other cDNA-AFLP protocols in terms of coverage, redundancy, fragment length, and the total number of PCRs. Primers generating 30 to 70 amplicons per PCR provided the highest fraction of electrophoretically distinguishable fragments suitable for normalization. For A. thaliana, human and mice transcriptome, the use of two marking enzymes and three sequentially applied releasing enzymes for each of the marking enzymes is recommended.