Lane-tracking and non-ABI sequencers

Dom Spinella dspinella at
Mon Sep 8 11:14:16 EST 1997


I sympathize with your frustration over the lane tracking problems with
ABI Sequencers.  We have a core facility under my direction with 4 ABI
377s (all with XL upgrades) and we too have to manually track just about
every gel.  The only way around this is to load every other lane which,
of course, halves the throughput.  Nevertheless, this still turns out
better than what is achievable with any other Sequencer. The issue is
that ABI has the patent on 4-color sequencing allowing all four bases to
be called in a single lane. The ability to sequence 1 template per lane
is unique to ABI -- all others require 4 lanes per template (as with
traditional manual Sanger Sequencing).  I think that if you investigate
carefully, you will also find that other brands of automated Sequencers
suffer from different (and more insidious) problems.  The most severe
such problem is that the base-calling algorithms are not as good as with
ABI and there are more mis-calls. There's a reason why ABI dominates the
Sequencer market despite being by far the most expensive iunstrument out
there.  I am told that ABI is working feverishly on the tracking problem
and I sure hope they get it figured out. In the meantime, one solution
(other than loading just half the lanes) is to train a junior technician
(part-time undergraduates work well) to handle the manual lane
tracking.  A low-tech answer to be sure, but it can be effective and
relatively inexpensive.  Good luck.  -- D.G. Spinella

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