In spike and recovery, a known amount of analyte is added (spiked) into the natural test sample matrix. Then the assay (here assumed to be ELISA) is run to measure the response (recovery) of the spiked sample matrix compared to an identical spike in the standard diluent.
The ELISA method involves comparison of test samples to a standard curve prepared using known concentrations of the analyte (e.g., purified recombinant protein). The goal in assay development is to maximize signal-to-noise ratio while achieving identical responses for a given amount of analyte in the standard diluent (the standard curve) and sample matrix (biological sample + sample diluent). The sample matrix may contain components that affect assay response to the analyte differently than the standard diluent. A spike-and-recovery experiment is designed to assess this difference in assay response.
Two kinds of adjustments can be made to re-optimize an ELISA when a spike-and-recovery experiment detects a discrepancy.
Better results for a sample matrix may be obtained by altering its pH (to match the optimized standard diluent) or by adding BSA or other purified protein as a carrier/stabilizer. Be aware that the best sample diluent will not necessarily be the same as the best standard diluent. For example, serum samples contain considerable background protein (e.g., albumin and immunoglobulins). But, the purified recombinant protein used as a standard may not contain any carrier protein. In this case, the best standard diluent may be phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) that contains 1% BSA and the best sample diluent for the serum may be PBS without any additional protein.
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A linearity-of-dilution experiment provides information about the precision of results for samples tested at different levels of dilution in a chosen sample diluent. Linearity is defined relative to the calculated amount of analyte based on the standard curve, not relative to the raw absorbance measurements (the best fit standard curve usually is not linear).
If the linearity is good over a wide range of dilutions, then the assay method provides flexibility to assay samples with different levels of analyte (i.e., a sample with high levels of analyte can be diluted several-fold to ensure that its values fall within the standard curve range and compared to a low-level sample that is assayed without dilution).
There are two ways to perform a linearity-of-dilution experiment.
Poor linearity of dilution indicates that the natural sample matrix, the sample diluent and/or standard diluent affect analyte detectability differently. This difference may be caused by dilution of components in one solution that inhibits or enhances detection in the assay method compared to the other solutions. The causes of poor linearity of dilution are, therefore, related to the same causes of poor spike and recovery.
The goal in either case is to have equality between the standard diluent and sample diluent. If desired, a single experiment can be performed using a checkerboard matrix of spike levels, sample types, sample diluents and dilution factors to simultaneously assess both spike and recovery and linearity of dilution.
Table 1. ELISA spike and recovery of recombinant human IL-1 beta in nine human urine samples using the Novex IL-1 beta ELISA Kit, Human. Samples were assayed by adding 50 µL of sample and 10 µL of spike stock solution calculated to yield the intended 0, 15, 40 or 80 pg/mL spike concentration. Values reported for spiked samples reflect subtraction of the endogenous (no-spike) value. Recoveries for spiked test samples were calculated by comparison to the measured recovery of spiked diluent control. Diluent for the diluent control, spike stock solutions and standard was the same. All values represent the average of three replicates.
|Mean recovery |
Table 2. Typical presentation for summarizing spike-and-recovery results. (Data from Table 1.)
|Spike level||Expected||Observed||Recovery %|
|Urine (9)||Low (15 pg/mL)||17.0||14.7||86.3|
|Med (40 pg/mL)||44.1||37.8||85.8|
|High (80 pg/mL)||81.6||69.0||84.6|
Table 3. ELISA linearity-of-dilution results for three human IL-1 beta samples using the IL-1 beta ELISA Kit, Human. The best sample diluent was chosen from the previous spike-and-recovery experiment (Table 1 and 2) and four dilutions were made for each sample. Observed values were assessed relative to the assay standard curve produced by an IL-1 beta standard.
|Sample||Dilution factor (DF)||Observed (pg/mL)|
|ConA-stimulated cell culture supernatant||Neat||131.5||131.5||100|
|High-level serum sample||Neat||128.7||128.7||100|
|Low-level serum sample spiked with recombinant IL-1 beta||Neat||39.3||39.3||100|
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