Open Access Research article

Ex-vivo changes in amino acid concentrations from blood stored at room temperature or on ice: implications for arginine and taurine measurements

Joshua S Davis12*, Christabelle J Darcy1, Kim Piera1, Yvette R McNeil1, Tonia Woodberry1 and Nicholas M Anstey12

Author affiliations

1 International Health Division, Menzies School of Health Research and Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0810, Australia

2 Division of Medicine, Royal Darwin Hospital, Darwin, NT, 0810, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Clinical Pathology 2009, 9:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-9-10

Published: 27 November 2009



Determination of the plasma concentrations of arginine and other amino acids is important for understanding pathophysiology, immunopathology and nutritional supplementation in human disease. Delays in processing of blood samples cause a change in amino acid concentrations, but this has not been precisely quantified. We aimed to describe the concentration time profile of twenty-two amino acids in blood from healthy volunteers, stored at room temperature or on ice.


Venous blood was taken from six healthy volunteers and stored at room temperature or in an ice slurry. Plasma was separated at six time points over 24 hours and amino acid levels were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography.


Median plasma arginine concentrations decreased rapidly at room temperature, with a 6% decrease at 30 minutes, 25% decrease at 2 hours and 43% decrease at 24 hours. Plasma ornithine increased exponentially over the same period. Plasma arginine was stable in blood stored on ice, with a < 10% change over 24 hours. Plasma taurine increased by 100% over 24 hours, and this change was not prevented by ice. Most other amino acids increased over time at room temperature but not on ice.


Plasma arginine concentrations in stored blood fall rapidly at room temperature, but remain stable on ice for at least 24 hours. Blood samples taken for the determination of plasma amino acid concentrations either should be placed immediately on ice or processed within 30 minutes of collection.