Widespread choroid plexus contamination in sampling and profiling of brain tissue

Kimberly C. Olney, Kennedi T. Todd, Praveen N. Pallegar, Tanner D. Jensen, Mika P. Cadiz, Katelin A. Gibson, Joseph H. Barnett, Camila de Ávila, Samantha M. Bouchal, Benjamin E. Rabichow, Zonghui Ding, Aleksandra M. Wojtas, Melissa A. Wilson, John D. Fryer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The choroid plexus, a tissue responsible for producing cerebrospinal fluid, is found predominantly in the lateral and fourth ventricles of the brain. This highly vascularized and ciliated tissue is made up of specialized epithelial cells and capillary networks surrounded by connective tissue. Given the complex structure of the choroid plexus, this can potentially result in contamination during routine tissue dissection. Bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing studies, as well as genome-wide in situ hybridization experiments (Allen Brain Atlas), have identified several canonical markers of choroid plexus such as Ttr, Folr1, and Prlr. We used the Ttr gene as a marker to query the Gene Expression Omnibus database for transcriptome studies of brain tissue and identified at least some level of likely choroid contamination in numerous studies that could have potentially confounded data analysis and interpretation. We also analyzed transcriptomic datasets from human samples from Allen Brain Atlas and the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) database and found abundant choroid contamination, with regions in closer proximity to choroid more likely to be impacted such as hippocampus, cervical spinal cord, substantia nigra, hypothalamus, and amygdala. In addition, analysis of both the Allen Brain Atlas and GTEx datasets for differentially expressed genes between likely “high contamination” and “low contamination” groups revealed a clear enrichment of choroid plexus marker genes and gene ontology pathways characteristic of these ciliated choroid cells. Inclusion of these contaminated samples could result in biological misinterpretation or simply add to the statistical noise and mask true effects. We cannot assert that Ttr or other genes/proteins queried in targeted assays are artifacts from choroid contamination as some of these differentials may be due to true biological effects. However, for studies that have an unequal distribution of choroid contamination among groups, investigators may wish to remove contaminated samples from analyses or incorporate choroid marker gene expression into their statistical modeling. In addition, we suggest that a simple RT-qPCR or western blot for choroid markers would mitigate unintended choroid contamination for any experiment, but particularly for samples intended for more costly omic profiling. This study highlights an unexpected problem for neuroscientists, but it is also quite possible that unintended contamination of adjacent structures occurs during dissections for other tissues but has not been widely recognized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1839-1847
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology


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