Evidence for endotoxin contamination in plastic Na+-heparin blood collection tube lots.

Newhall, K.J., Diemer, G.S., Leshinsky, N., Kerkof, K., Chute, H.T., Russell, C.B., Rees, W., Welcher, A.A., Patterson, S.D., Means, G.D.
Journal   Clin Chem.
Analytes Measured  
Matrix Tested   Whole blood
Year   2010
Volume   56
Page Numbers   1483-91
Application   Cytokines and Chemokines
BACKGROUND: Biomarker assays are often conducted on whole blood samples in the course of drug development studies. Because bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (endotoxin) contamination is known to cause spontaneous cytokine production by monocytes, contamination of blood collection tubes may interfere with biomarker assay results.

METHODS: Whole blood from healthy donors was collected into plastic or glass sodium (Na(+))-heparin Vacutainer() blood collection tubes and heparinized syringes. Samples were analyzed for phosphoprotein response, cytokine production, and RNA expression. Tubes were tested for endotoxin contamination by use of the limulus amoebocyte lysate assay.

RESULTS: Results of phospho-flow cytometry, branched DNA (bDNA), and ELISA assays indicated that a specific lot (#5339582) of plastic Na(+)-heparin Vacutainer tubes was highly contaminated with an endotoxinlike substance, and contamination was confirmed by the limulus amoebocyte lysate assay. Analysis of multiple-analyte panels revealed that analytes whose changed expression was predictive of LPS stimulation were increased when whole blood was incubated in contaminated tubes for 6 or 18 h. Two additional lots of plastic tubes tested had detectable amounts of endotoxin sufficient to strongly alter phospho-flow cytometry analyses, as determined by the fold change in phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase in response to tumor necrosis factor alpha and LPS. In contrast, 3 lots of glass tubes had substantially lower levels of spontaneous blood activation.

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