Prevention of DNA degradation is essential to conducting molecular analyses of field-captured specimens. This is especially important for projects that incorporate participation of non-specialists in research, such as agency monitoring of pests, or citizen science, where standard methods of preservation may be inaccessible.
The commonly used 95 percent ethanol or pure propylene glycol are expensive and hard to access for everyone outside a professional lab. However, collecting and preserving samples and the DNA in them even if it is only for short-term storage and shipment requires appropriate chemicals.
A new study, published in the journal Invertebrate Systematics, presents the results of a study by researchers from Florida in which they tested several commonly available products for their ability to preserve the DNA in ambrosia beetles. They preserved 33 ambrosia beetles under experimental conditions in ethanol (control), hand sanitizer, pure propylene glycol and automobile antifreeze and coolant.
Each sample was left for two or seven days under direct outdoor exposure and the colleagues assessed the relative quantity of intact DNA by performing RT-PCR. Successful amplification of the target gene was then verified by sequencing.
They found that alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and propylene and ethylene glycol-based automobile antifreeze can preserve DNA at least for a short-term and thereby serve as effective substitutes for laboratory-grade preservatives.
This finding opens the door for much broader participation in citizen science, Now, there is an easy way for anyone who is interested in preserving insects for a project to get the materials themselves. It also means that professionals can sample more widely, at a lower cost and with fewer concerns about safety. This also offers a big boost for scientists who collect samples in remote locations, where accessing laboratory-grade materials can be difficult or impossible. We hope this encourages many more projects to incorporate a citizen science component without worrying about cost of or access to preservation materials.