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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Neurotrophin 4/5 immunoassay: identification of sources of errors for the quantification of neurotrophins.

Neurotrophin 4/5 (NT4/5) is the least understood member of the mammalian neurotrophin family. Precise and reliable determinations of endogenous NT4/5 levels are essential to understand its physiology. Immunoassay has been used for neurotrophin quantification for over three decades. However, this apparently simple task has proved elusive: conflicting results have long been recognized for nerve growth factor (NGF; up to 10000-fold variations in serum values have been reported in the literature) and more recently, for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (as much as 50-fold reported in rat hippocampus). Reasons for these variations have been extensively investigated by researchers, but rarely explained. During the development of our NT4/5 immunoassay, we discovered that false positive reactions resulted when tissues were extracted and assayed under certain conditions. In this study, we examined the major factors that adversely affect the quantification of NT4/5. Tissue samples from Sprague-Dawley rats were dissected and extracted in a range of buffers. The assay was performed on 96 well vinyl plates using sheep anti-NT4/5 immunoglobulin (Ig) as the capture (first) antibody, and a monoclonal anti-NT4/5 as the detector (second) antibody, followed by anti-mouse IgG (third) conjugated with peroxidase or alkaline phosphatase from several manufacturers. Our results show that: (1) tissue extraction at high or low pH, a method previously found to increase the measurable amount of NGF, produced greater false positive results for NT4/5 when compared with extraction at neutral pH; (2) the most significant source of error derived from the use of conjugated antibodies capable of reacting with molecules within tissue extracts which bind to the plate, even after thorough blocking; and (3) quantification is also significantly affected by both the standards used and the ability of the antibodies to react with these standards. Our findings indicate that the precise determination of neurotrophin levels requires quality reagents and the optimization of extraction conditions for each neurotrophin. The use of a two - rather than a three - antibody assay system avoids most of the interactions which give rise to false positive reactions.[1]


  1. Neurotrophin 4/5 immunoassay: identification of sources of errors for the quantification of neurotrophins. Zhang, S., Zettler, C., Cupler, E.J., Hurtado, P., Wong, K., Rush, R.A. J. Neurosci. Methods (2000) [Pubmed]
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