A next-generation sequencing method for gene doping detection that distinguishes low levels of plasmid DNA against a background of genomic DNA

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Gene doping confers health risks for athletes and is a threat to fair competition in sports. Therefore the anti-doping community has given attention on its detection. Previously published polymerase chain reaction-based methodologies for gene doping detection are targeting exon-exon junctions in the intron-less transgene. However, because these junctions are known, it would be relatively easy to evade detection by tampering with the copyDNA sequences. We have developed a targeted next-generation sequencing based assay for the detection of all exon-exon junctions of the potential doping genes, EPO, IGF1, IGF2, GH1, and GH2, which is resistant to tampering. Using this assay, all exon-exon junctions of copyDNA of doping genes could be detected with a sensitivity of 1296 copyDNA copies in 1000 ng of genomic DNA. In addition, promotor regions and plasmid-derived sequences are readily detectable in our sequence data. While we show the reliability of our method for a selection of genes, expanding the panel to detect other genes would be straightforward. As we were able to detect plasmid-derived sequences, we expect that genes with manipulated junctions, promotor regions, and plasmid or virus-derived sequences will also be readily detected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-346
Number of pages9
JournalGene Therapy
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2019


  • gene doping
  • next generation sequencing

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