Precautions for Working with RNA

RNA in the lab is extremely labile due to the presence of hard-to-inactivate RNases on human skin and in body fluids. However, these simple precautions can limit the degradation of precious RNA samples.

  1. Wear clean gloves and a lab coat. Be careful not to touch your face or hair with gloved hands. Remove gloves before touching items usually touched with bare hands, e.g., computer. Change gloves frequently.
  2. Clean work area and pipettes with RNaseZap (Ambion) prior to starting work.
  3. Use dedicated, RNase-free barrier pipette tips and microfuge tubes for RNA work. If RNase-free, these do NOT need to be autoclaved.
  4. Avoid non-disposable plastic and glassware if possible. If not, wash with 0.5% SDS and rinse thoroughly with RNase-free water. Glassware can also be baked overnight at 240°C.
  5. All solutions should be made with RNase-free water and used only for RNA work. RNase-free water can be obtained from commercial sources, or generated by DEPC treatment of ultrapure water. Add 0.1% v/v DEPC (diethyl pyrocarbonate; highly toxic) to water, stir overnight, then autoclave before use.
  6. Practice good sterile technique: when working, keep tubes and bottles closed whenever possible, and avoid coughing, sneezing, or breathing over open containers.
  7. Keep RNA-containing samples on ice whenever practical, and store purified RNA at –80°C in a dedicated box.