Many factors contribute to the signal-to-noise ratio in nucleic acid hybridizations. These factors include the presence of solvent (formamide), hybridization temperature, length of hybridization, volume of hybridization solution, degree and method of agitation, use of blocking reagents, concentration and specific activity of the probe, use of molecular agents to increase the rate of nucleic acid reassociation, and the degree of stringency used during the washing of the membrane.
In order to decrease any non-specific hybridization of the probe to a substrate, blocking agents must be used. Generally, a combination of blocking reagent, detergent, and denatured, fragmented DNA is used to accomplish this. Sigma offers sonicated, denatured DNA from a variety of species for use as a blocking agent in Northern and Southern blotting and other nucleic acid hybridization techniques.
Deoxyribonucleic acid, single stranded from salmon testes is suitable for use as a blocking agent in Southern hybridizations. It was used for in situ hybridization histochemistry of bone marrow biopsy samples and human blood monocyte subpopulations.