Quality assessment of human mitochondrial DNA quantification: MITONAUTS, an international multicentre survey

Hélène C F Côté, Mariana Gerschenson, Ulrich A. Walker, Oscar Miro, Gloria Garrabou, Emma Hammond, Joan Villarroya, Marta Giralt, Francesc Villarroya, Paola Cinque, Elena Garcia-Arumi, Antonio L. Andreu, Marcello Pinti, Andrea Cossarizza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mitochondrial DNA quantification by qPCR is used in the context of many diseases and toxicity studies but comparison of results between laboratories is challenging. Through two multigroup distributions of DNA samples from human cell lines, the MITONAUTS group anonymously compared mtDNA/nDNA quantification across nine laboratories involved in HIV research worldwide. Eight of the nine sites showed significant correlation between them (mean raw data R2=0.664; log10-transformed data R2=0.844). Although mtDNA/nDNA values were well correlated between sites, the inter-site variability on the absolute measurements remained high with a mean (range) coefficient of variation of 71 (37-212) %. Some variability appeared cell line-specific, probably due to chromosomal alterations or pseudogenes affecting the quantification of certain genes, while within cell line variability was likely due to differences in calibration of the standard curves. The use of two mtDNA and two single copy nDNA genes with highly specific primers to quantify each genome would help address copy number variants. Our results indicate that sample shipment must be done frozen and that absolute mtDNA/nDNA ratio values cannot readily be compared between laboratories, especially if assessing cultured cell mtDNA content. However, within laboratory and relative mtDNA/nDNA comparisons between laboratories should be reliable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-527
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Inter-laboratory variability
  • MtDNA content by qPCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Medicine


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