Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Saliva samples are a viable alternative to blood samples as a source of DNA for high throughput genotyping

Jean E Abraham1234*, Mel J Maranian1, Inmaculada Spiteri3, Roslin Russell3, Susan Ingle24, Craig Luccarini1, Helena M Earl24, Paul PD Pharoah1, Alison M Dunning1 and Carlos Caldas1234

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncology and Strangeway’s Research Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

2 Cambridge Breast Unit and NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, University of Cambridge NHS Foundation Hospitals, Hills Road, Cambridge, UK

3 Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre, Robinson Way, Cambridge, UK

4 Cambridge Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, Cambridge, UK

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BMC Medical Genomics 2012, 5:19  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-5-19

Published: 30 May 2012



The increasing trend for incorporation of biological sample collection within clinical trials requires sample collection procedures which are convenient and acceptable for both patients and clinicians. This study investigated the feasibility of using saliva-extracted DNA in comparison to blood-derived DNA, across two genotyping platforms: Applied Biosystems TaqmanTM and Illumina BeadchipTM genome-wide arrays.


Patients were recruited from the Pharmacogenetics of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy (PGSNPS) study. Paired blood and saliva samples were collected from 79 study participants. The Oragene DNA Self-Collection kit (DNAgenotek®) was used to collect and extract DNA from saliva. DNA from EDTA blood samples (median volume 8 ml) was extracted by Gen-Probe, Livingstone, UK. DNA yields, standard measures of DNA quality, genotype call rates and genotype concordance between paired, duplicated samples were assessed.


Total DNA yields were lower from saliva (mean 24 μg, range 0.2–52 μg) than from blood (mean 210 μg, range 58–577 μg) and a 2-fold difference remained after adjusting for the volume of biological material collected. Protein contamination and DNA fragmentation measures were greater in saliva DNA. 78/79 saliva samples yielded sufficient DNA for use on Illumina Beadchip arrays and using Taqman assays. Four samples were randomly selected for genotyping in duplicate on the Illumina Beadchip arrays. All samples were genotyped using Taqman assays. DNA quality, as assessed by genotype call rates and genotype concordance between matched pairs of DNA was high (>97%) for each measure in both blood and saliva-derived DNA.


We conclude that DNA from saliva and blood samples is comparable when genotyping using either Taqman assays or genome-wide chip arrays. Saliva sampling has the potential to increase participant recruitment within clinical trials, as well as reducing the resources and organisation required for multicentre sample collection.