Total and endothelial cell-derived cell-free DNA in blood plasma does not change during menstruation. Academic Article uri icon


  • Assays measuring cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in blood have widespread potential in modern medicine. However, a comprehensive understanding of cfDNA dynamics in healthy individuals is required to assist in the design of assays that maximise the signal driven by pathological changes, while excluding fluctuations that are part of healthy physiological processes. The menstrual cycle involves major remodelling of endometrial tissue and associated apoptosis, yet there has been little investigation of the impact of the menstrual cycle on cfDNA levels. Paired plasma samples were collected from 40 healthy women on menstruating (M) and non-menstruating (NM) days of their cycle. We measured total cfDNA by targeting ALU repetitive sequences and measured endothelial-derived cfDNA by methylation-specific qPCR targeting an endothelium-unique unmethylated CDH5 DNA region. CfDNA integrity and endothelial cfDNA concentration, but not total cfDNA, are consistent across time between NM and M. No significant changes in total (ALU-115 p = 0.273; ALU-247 p = 0.385) or endothelial cell specific (p = 0.301) cfDNA were observed, leading to the conclusion that menstrual status at the time of diagnostic blood collection should not have a significant impact on the quantitation of total cfDNA and methylation-based cancer assays.

publication date

  • January 1, 2021