Efficiency correction is required for accurate quantitative PCR analysis and reporting

Jan M Ruijter, Rebecca J Barnewall, Ian B Marsh, Andrew N Szentirmay, Jane C Quinn, Robin van Houdt, Quinn D Gunst, Maurice J B van den Hoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Quantitative PCR (qPCR) aims to measure the DNA or RNA concentration in diagnostic and biological samples based on the quantification cycle (Cq) value observed in the amplification curves. Results of qPCR experiments are regularly calculated as if all assays are 100% efficient or reported as just Cq, ΔCq, or ΔΔCq values.

CONTENTS: When the reaction shows specific amplification, it should be deemed to be positive, regardless of the observed Cq. Because the Cq is highly dependent on amplification efficiency that can vary among targets and samples, accurate calculation of the target quantity and relative gene expression requires that the actual amplification efficiency be taken into account in the analysis and reports. PCR efficiency is frequently derived from standard curves, but this approach is affected by dilution errors and hampered by properties of the standard and the diluent. These factors affect accurate quantification of clinical and biological samples used in diagnostic applications and collected in challenging conditions. PCR efficiencies determined from individual amplification curves avoid these confounders. To obtain unbiased efficiency-corrected results, we recommend absolute quantification with a single undiluted calibrator with a known target concentration and efficiency values derived from the amplification curves of the calibrator and the unknown samples.

SUMMARY: For meaningful diagnostics or biological interpretation, the reported results of qPCR experiments should be efficiency corrected. To avoid ambiguity, the Minimal Information for Publications on Quantitative Real-Time PCR Experiments (MIQE) guidelines checklist should be extended to require the methods that were used (1) to determine the PCR efficiency and (2) to calculate the reported target quantity and relative gene expression value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-842
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Chemistry (Washington, DC): international journal of molecular diagnostics and laboratory medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2021

Grant Number

  • 101985


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