The ability to accurately quantify nucleic acids is crucial to assay development and experimental design. In addition, being able to repeat this task quickly and efficiently directly impacts lab productivity. The Turner Biosystems TBS-380 Fluorometer performs these tasks well, although there are certain limitations. The TBS-380 has the ability to perform nucleic acid quantification of PicoGreen, RiboGreen, and Hoechst 33258 dye, as well as, protein quantification using NanoOrange. Enzyme Studies can also be performed with methylumbelliferone. The instrument has a dual channel read capability in UV (365-395 nm) and blue spectra (465-485 nm) and has a serial interface as well. You can also read sample volumes as low as 50 ul without compromising results by using an optional Minicell Adapter.
We use this instrument in conjunction with a PicoGreen assay for DNA quantification on samples ranging from crude bacterial lysate to chloroform:isoamyl alcohol-extracted DNA. My first impressions of the TBS-380 fluorometer were that it offered a small footprint and an even smaller price. This machine takes up less than half the space of any other fluorometer I have previously used, even with the printer option (the size is comparable to small spectrophotometers). In retrospect, although it would increase the footprint, we should have opted for a computer interface instead of the printer. Data output is in ASCII format and is downloadable directly into an Excel file. If you have access to an old PC, it would be worthwhile to down-load the computer interface from the Turner Biosystems website. You will need to be running at least Excel 5.0 and Windows 95.
We opted for the Minicell Adaptor and the small ground glass cuvettes instead of the 10 x 10 cuvettes. This gives us the flexibility of assaying DNA dilution curves prior to quantification by Real-Time PCR assay, as well as, assaying small volume samples. We obtain excellent correlation between the two methods. Lastly, the Turner Biosystems technical support staff is among the best. Their staff has consistently demonstrated knowledge of the instrumentation, its capabilities and how to troubleshoot my specific problems without the need for a service call.
My only complaint about this system would be scalability. When we initially began using it, we would only have 15-20 samples to process. The total time from when we started reagent preparation until we obtained useable data took approximately one hour for 20 samples. However, our current research demands require DNA quantification on hundreds of samples. Having the ability to quantify DNA in 96-well or 384-well format would definitely eliminate the bottle neck we now face. In its defense, the TBS-380 was never designed for high throughput analyses.
In conclusion, the TBS-380 is a robust and practical solution to a problem that faces most Molecular Genetics labs today, accurate quantification of template DNA. The small footprint mitigates the need for a lot of lab space dedicated to this one task and its reproducibility and sensitivity are good enough for most, if not all, DNA applications.
Leo J. Kenefic
BSL2 Reseach Projects Coordinator
Northern Arizona University
Turner Biosystems' TBS-380 Fluorometer
Very small footprint and the robust design yields accurate and reproducible results.
Not scaleable for high throughput.
The Bottom Line
I would buy the Turner TBS-380 if you need to quantify small amounts of nucleic acids at low concentrations or if the throughput in your lab is such that justifying a 96-well or 384-well instrument would be difficult.