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Polymerase chain reaction
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a biochemistry and molecular biology technique  for exponentially amplifying DNA, via enzymatic replication, without using a living organism (such as E. coli or yeast). As PCR is an in vitro technique, it can be performed without restrictions on the form of DNA, and it can be extensively modified to perform a wide array of genetic manipulations. PCR is commonly used in medical and biological research labs for a variety of tasks, such as the detection of hereditary diseases, the identification of genetic fingerprints, the diagnosis of infectious diseases, the cloning of genes, paternity testing, and DNA computing. PCR was invented by Kary Mullis. At the time he thought up PCR in 1983, Mullis was working in Emeryville, California for Cetus Corporation, one of the first biotechnology companies. There, he was charged with making short chains of DNA for other scientists. Mullis has written that he conceived of PCR while cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway one night in his car . He was playing in his mind with a new way of analyzing changes (mutations) in DNA when he realized that he had instead invented a method of amplifying any DNA region. Mullis has said that before his trip was over, he was already savoring the prospects of a Nobel Prize. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Michael Smith in 1993. reaction is easy to execute. It requires no more than a test tube, a few simple reagents, and a source of heat." 
PCR tubes in a stand after a colony PCR
As Mullis has written in Scientific American: "Beginning with a single molecule of the genetic material DNA, the PCR can generate 100 billion similar molecules in an afternoon. The
1 PCR in practice 1.1 Primer (molecular biology) 1.2 Procedure 1.3 Example 1.4 PCR optimization 1.4.1 Hairpins 1.4.2 Polymerase errors 1.4.3 Size and other limitations 1.4.4 Non-specific priming 1.5 Practical modifications to the PCR technique 1.6 Recent developments in PCR techniques 2 Uses of PCR 2.1 Genetic fingerprinting 2.2 Paternity testing 2.3 Detection of hereditary diseases 2.4 Cloning genes 2.5 Mutagenesis 2.6 Analysis of ancient DNA 2.7 Genotyping of specific mutations 2.8 Comparison of gene expression 3 History 4 Patent wars 5 References 6 External links
PCR in practice
PCR is used to amplify specific regions of a DNA strand. This can be a single gene, just a part of a gene, or a non-coding sequence. Most PCR methods typically amplify DNA fragments of up to 10 kilo base pairs (kb). Some PCR methods can copy DNA fragments of up to 40 kb in size , which is still much less than the total nuclear DNA content of a eukaryotic cell - for comparison, the haploid genome of a human cell consists of about three billion DNA base pairs (3 Gb). PCR, as currently practiced, requires several basic components . These components are: DNA template that contains the region of the DNA fragment to be amplified One or more primers, which are complementary to the DNA regions at the 5' and 3' ends of the DNA region that is to be amplified (see following section on primers) a DNA polymerase (e.g. Taq polymerase or another DNA polymerase with a temperature optimum at around 70°C), used to synthesize a DNA copy of the region to be amplified Deoxynucleotide triphosphates, (dNTPs) from which the DNA polymerase builds the new DNA Buffer solution, which provides a suitable chemical environment for optimum activity and stability of the DNA polymerase Divalent cation, magnesium or manganese ions; generally Mg2+ is used, but Mn2+ can be utilized for PCR-mediated DNA mutagenesis, as higher Mn2+ concentration increases the error rate during DNA synthesis  Monovalent cation potassium ions The PCR is carried out in small reaction tubes (0.2-0.5 ml volumes), containing a reaction volume typically of 15-100 µl, that are inserted into a thermal cycler. This is a machine that heats and cools the reaction tubes within it to the precise temperature required for each step of the reaction. Most thermal cyclers have heated lids to prevent condensation on the inside of the reaction tube caps. Alternatively, a layer of oil may be placed on the reaction mixture to prevent evaporation. These machines cost more than $2,500 USD, as of 2004.
Figure 1: A thermal cycler for PCR
Primer (molecular biology)
To selectively PCR-amplify a DNA fragment, suitable primers need to be designed and synthesized. Primers are short oligonucleotides, i.e., chemically synthesized, single-stranded DNA fragments — often not more than 50 and usually only 18 to 25 base pairs long — containing nucleotides that are complementary to the nucleotides at both ends of the DNA fragment to be amplified. These complementary bases in primer and DNA template facilitate annealing of the primer to the DNA template to which the DNA polymerase can bind and begin with the
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Polymerase chain reaction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
synthesis of a new DNA strand that is complementary to the DNA template (as described below). The length of the primers and their desired melting temperature (Tm) depend on a number of considerations. The T m of a primer -- not to be confused with the T m of the template DNA -is defined as the temperature at which half of the primer binding sites at the DNA template are occupied. As the T m increases with the length of the primer (provided the content of guanine (G) and cytosine (C) relative to adenine (A) and thymine (T) base residues remains constant), primers that are short (<15 base pairs) require a lower annealing temperature (<50°C) for efficient amplification. Owing to the inherently less complex base composition of short primers, these can potentially anneal at several positions on a DNA template, which would result in undesirable non-specific amplification. On the other hand, using a primer that is very long (>40 base pairs) requires annealing temperatures that are above 80 °C, i.e., at temperatures that impinge on the activity and stability of the DNA polymerase. The optimum length of a primer (with a G+C content of 40-60%) is generally from 15 to 40 nucleotides with an annealing temperature between 50°C and 74°C. Some PCR applications require the use of degenerate primers, which are mixtures of primers having one or more differences in bases at specific positions. The use of degenerate primers is called for in instances where the exact sequence of a DNA template is unknown, or amplification of DNA fragments with slightly different sequence is desired. For example, they may be required if a homologous gene (i.e., a gene with similar function, but dissimilar DNA sequence) is to be amplified from different organisms. Another common use for degenerate primers is required when primer design can only be performed on protein sequence. As several different nucleotide codons can code for one amino acid (see Degeneracy of the genetic code at Genetic code), most protein sequences can be encoded by several different DNA sequences. A primer sequence corresponding to the codon for the amino acid isoleucine may be "ATH", where A stands for adenine, T for thymine, and H for adenine, thymine, or cytosine. Use of degenerate primers can greatly reduce the specificity of the PCR amplification. This problem can be partly overcome by using touchdown PCR. The above-mentioned considerations make primer design a multi-step process to ensure good yield and quality of the PCR product: The GC-content should be between 40-60%; ideally there should be an even distribution of G+C and A+T along the primer. The calculated T m for both primers used in reaction should not differ >5°C. The ideal annealing temperature usually is 5°C below the calculated primer T m. However, it should be chosen empirically for individual conditions. Inner self-complementary hairpins of >4 and of dimers >8 should be avoided along with long runs (>4) of G or C residues. Primer 3' terminus design is critical to PCR success since the nascent DNA strand extends from the 3' end of the primer. The primer 3' end should not contain more than 3-4 bases that are complementary to any region within itself or the other primer used in the reaction and must correctly match the bases in the template. It is often preferable to have a G or C nucleotide at the final 3' terminus of the primer ("G-C clamp"), as this enhances efficient strand elongation in the PCR; however having more than three G or C residues within the five terminal bases at the 3' end should be avoided. While it is very useful to follow these guidelines, in practice, it is often impossible to design primers that fulfil all of the above criteria. Because of the high number of variables that can affect PCR, even suboptimally designed primers may work well, so it is generally advisable to determine optimum conditions empirically, e.g., by using different primer combinations or changing selected PCR conditions. There are computer programs that can assist in designing primers (see External links), but the final call can often only be made after experimental trials.
The PCR usually consists of a series of 20 to 35 cycles. Most commonly, PCR is carried out in three steps (Fig. 2), often preceded by one temperature hold at the start and followed by one hold at the end. 1. Prior to the first cycle, during an initialization step, the PCR reaction is often heated to a temperature of 94-96°C (or 98°C if extremely thermostable polymerases are used), and this temperature is then held for 1-9 minutes. This first hold is employed to ensure that most of the DNA template and primers are denatured, i.e., that the DNA is melted by disrupting the hydrogen bonds between complementary bases in two DNA strands. Also, some PCR polymerases require this step for activation (see hot-start PCR). Following this hold, cycling begins, with one step at 94-98°C for 20-30 seconds (denaturation step). 2. The denaturation is followed by the annealing step. In this step the reaction temperature is lowered so that the primers can attach to the single-stranded DNA template. The temperature at this step depends on the T m of the primers (see above), and is usually between 50-64°C for 20-40 seconds. 3. The annealing step is followed by an extension/elongation step during which the DNA polymerase copies the DNA template, starting at the primers annealed to both of its strands. The temperature at this step depends on the DNA polymerase used. Taq polymerase has a temperature optimum of 70-74°C; thus, in most cases, during the extension a temperature of 72°C is used. The extension time depends both on the DNA polymerase used and on the length of the DNA fragment to be amplified. As a practical rule-of-thumb, at its optimum temperature, the DNA polymerase will polymerize a thousand bases in one minute. A final elongation step is frequently used after the last cycle to ensure that any remaining single-stranded DNA is completely copied. This differs from the other elongation steps only in that it is longer--typically 10-15 minutes. A final hold of 4-15°C for an indefinite time is often employed to allow short-term storage of the reaction, especially if reactions are run overnight, and cannot be removed immediately after the cycling.
The times and temperatures given in this example are taken from a PCR program that was successfully used on a 250 bp fragment of the C-terminus of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF).
Figure 2: Schematic drawing of the PCR cycle. (1) Denaturing at 94-96°C. (2) Annealing at ~65°C (3) Elongation at 72°C. Four cycles are shown here.
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Polymerase chain reaction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The reaction mixture consists of 1.0 2.5 1.0 1.0 5.0 89.5 l DNA template (100 ng/ l) l of primer, 1.25 l per primer (100 ng/ l) l Pfu-Polymerase l nucleotides l buffer solution l water
A 200 l reaction tube containing the 100 l mixture is inserted into the thermocycler. The PCR process consists of the following steps: 1. Initialization. The mixture is heated at 96°C for 5 minutes to ensure that the DNA strands as well as the primers have melted. The DNA Polymerase can be present at initialization, or it can be added after this step. 2. Melting, where it is heated at 96°C for 30 seconds. For each cycle, this is usually enough time for the DNA to denature. 3. Annealing by heating at 68°C for 30 seconds: The primers are moving around, caused by Brownian motion. Hydrogen bonds along short stretches of DNA are constantly formed and broken between the single-stranded primer and the single-stranded template. Stable bonds are only formed when the primer sequence exactly fits the template sequence, and on that short piece of double-stranded DNA (template and primer), the polymerase can attach and start copying the template. Once this extension has created a longer double-stranded DNA segment, the Tm of this double-stranded region is now greater than the annealing or extension temperature. 4. Elongation by heating 72°C for 45 seconds: This is the ideal working temperature for the polymerase. The combined hydrogen bonds between the extended primer and the DNA template are now strong enough to withstand forces breaking these attractions at the higher temperature. Primers that are on positions with no exact match, melt away from the template (because of the higher temperature) and are not extended.
Negative Gel electrophoresis image of a standard PCR. Two sets of specific primers were used to amplify one gene from three separate tissues. As the gel shows, Tissue #1 lacks that gene, whereas Tissue #2 and #3 possess that gene.
The DNA polymerase condenses the 5'-phosphate group of the dNTPs with the 3'-hydroxyl group at the end of the nascent (extending) DNA strand, i.e., the polymerase adds dNTP's that are complementary to the template in 5' to 3' direction, thus reading the template in 3' to 5' direction. 1. Steps 2-4 are repeated 25-35 times, but with good primers and fresh polymerase, 15 to 20 cycles may be sufficient. 2. Mixture is held at 7°C. This is useful if one starts the PCR in the evening just before leaving the lab, so it can run overnight. The DNA will not be damaged at 7°C after just one night. The correct PCR product can be identified by its size, using agarose gel electrophoresis. Agarose gel electrophoresis is a procedure that consists of loading DNA into small wells of an agarose gel and then applying an electric current to the gel. As a result, the smaller DNA strands move faster than the larger strands through the gel toward the positive current. The size of the PCR product can be determined by comparing it with a DNA ladder, which contains DNA fragments of known size, also loaded onto the gel (Fig. 3).
Since PCR is very sensitive, i.e., requiring only a few DNA molecules for amplification across several orders of magnitude, adequate measures to avoid contamination from any DNA present in the lab environment (bacteria, viruses, lab staff's skin etc.) should be taken. Thus DNA sample preparation, reaction mixture assemblage and the PCR process, in addition to the subsequent reaction product analysis, should all be performed in separate areas. In practice, one area should be dedicated to reaction assembly before the PCR and another area to post-PCR processing, such as electrophoresis or purification of PCR products. For the preparation of reaction mixtures, a laminar flow cabinet with UV lamp is recommended, and pipettes with filter tips should be used. Fresh gloves should be used for each PCR step as well as displacement pipettes with aerosol filters. The reagents for PCR should be prepared separately and used solely for this purpose. Aliquots should be stored separately from other DNA samples. A control reaction, omitting template DNA (also called negative control), should always be performed alongside experimental PCRs, to check for possible contamination of reagents with extraneous DNA or for primer multimer formation. Hairpins Secondary structures in the DNA, caused by base-pairing between nucleotides on the same strand of the molecule, can cause folding or even knotting of the DNA template or the primers, leading to decreased yield or total failure of the reaction. Hairpins, direct folding of the DNA caused by a run of complementary bases or an inversion, are the most common problems of this sort. Typically, this calls for choosing different primers; secondary structures in the template DNA are not as serious as those in the primers, as the DNA polymerase will "flatten out" most secondary structures unless they are particularly robust. However, if use of hairpin-forming primers is necessary, as may be the case in PCR splicing and cloning, the problem can be ameliorated somewhat by use of DMSO or glycerol; these chemicals can be added to the PCR mastermix to interrupt secondary structures. Polymerase errors Taq polymerase lacks a 3' to 5' exonuclease activity. This makes it impossible for it to do error proofreading, i.e., check the last base it has inserted and excise it if the base does not match with the base in the complementary strand. This lack in 3' to 5' proofreading results in a high error rate of approximately 1 in 10,000 bases, which, if an error occurs early in the PCR, can cause accumulation of a large proportion of amplified DNA with incorrect sequence in the final product. Several "high-fidelity" DNA polymerases, having engineered 3' to 5' exonuclease activity have become available that permit more accurate amplification for use in amplification for sequencing or cloning. Examples of polymerases with 3' to 5' exonuclease activity include: KOD DNA polymerase, a recombinant form of Thermococcus kodakaraensis KOD1; Vent, which is extracted from Thermococcus litoralis; Pfu DNA polymerase, which is extracted from Pyrococcus furiosus; and Pwo, which is extracted from Pyrococcus woesii. Size and other limitations PCR works readily with DNA of up two to three thousand base pairs in length. However, above this size, product yields often decrease, as with increasing length stochastic effects such as premature termination by the polymerase begin to affect the efficiency of the PCR. It is possible to amplify larger pieces of up to 50,000 base pairs with a slower heating cycle and special polymerases. These are polymerases fused to a processivity-enhancing DNA-binding protein, making them literally "stick" to the DNA longer. Other valuable properties of the prototype chimeric polymerases TopoTaq (http://www.fidelitysystems.com/TopoTaq.html) and PfuC2 include enhanced thermostability, specificity and resistance to contaminants and inhibitors . They were engineered using unique Helix-hairpin-Helix (HhH) DNA binding domains of Topoisomerase V from hyperthermophile Methanopyrus kandleri. Chimeric polymerases overcome many limitations of native enzymes and are used in direct PCR amplification from cell cultures and even food samples, thus by-passing laborious DNA isolation steps altogether. A robust strand displacement activity of the hybrid TopoTaq polymerase helps solving PCR problems with #Hairpins and G-loaded double helices, because helices with a high G-C context possess a higher melting temperature . Non-specific priming
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Polymerase chain reaction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Non-specific binding of primers frequently occurs and can be due to repeat sequences in the DNA template, non-specific binding between primer and template, and incomplete primer binding, leaving the 5' end of the primer unattached to the template. Non-specific binding is also often increased when degenerate primers are used in the PCR. Manipulation of annealing temperature and magnesium ion (which stabilise DNA and RNA interactions) concentrations can increase specificity. Non-specific priming during reaction preparation at lower temperatures can be prevented by using "hot-start" polymerase enzymes whose active site is blocked by an antibody or chemical that only dislodges once the reaction is heated to 95˚C during the denaturation step of the first cycle. A new way to maintain thermophilic enzymes absolutely inactive at low temperature was identified during structural studies of hyperthermophilic DNA-binding enzymes . A specially engineered TopoTaq (http://www.fidelitysystems.com/TopoTaq.html) polymerase activates instantly at high temperature and overcomes limitations of conventional "hot-start" enzymes that require antibody denaturation at >90˚C for activation. In addition, its activity is blocked upon completion of PCR at low temperature. Other methods to increase specificity include Nested PCR and Touchdown PCR.
Practical modifications to the PCR technique
Nested PCR - Nested PCR is intended to increase the specificity when amplifying a target DNA sequence, and, thus, to reduce background due to non-specific amplification of DNA. Two sets of primers are being used in two successive PCR reactions. In the first reaction, one pair of primers is used to generate DNA products, which besides the intended target, may still consist of non-specifically amplified DNA fragments. The product(s) (sometimes after gel purification after electrophoresis of the PCR product) are then used in a second PCR reaction with a set of primers whose binding sites are completely or partially different from the primer pair used in the first reaction, but are also within the intended DNA target. These nested primers specifically amplify the sequence within the intended target. Nested PCR is often more successful in specifically amplifying long DNA fragments than conventional PCR, but it requires more detailed knowledge of the target sequences. Intersequence specific (ISSR) PCR Ligation-mediated PCR Inverse PCR - Inverse PCR is a method used to allow PCR when only one internal sequence is known. This is especially useful in identifying flanking sequences to various genomic inserts. This involves a series of digestions and self ligation before cutting by an endonuclease, resulting in known sequences at either end of the unknown sequence. RT-PCR - RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription PCR) is a method used to amplify, isolate or identify a known sequence from a cell or tissues RNA. The PCR reaction is preceded by a reaction using reverse transcriptase to convert RNA to cDNA. RT-PCR is widely used in expression profiling, to determine the expression of a gene or to identify the sequence of an RNA transcript, including transcription start and termination sites and, if the genomic DNA sequence of a gene is known, to map the location of exons and introns in the gene. The 5' end of a gene (corresponding to the transcription start site) is typically identified by a RT-PCR method, named RACE-PCR, short for Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends. Assembly PCR - Assembly PCR is the completely artificial synthesis of long gene products by performing PCR on a pool of long oligonucleotides with short overlapping segments. The oligonucleotides alternate between sense and antisense directions, and the overlapping segments serve to order the PCR fragments so that they selectively produce their final product. Asymmetric PCR - Asymmetric PCR is used to preferentially amplify one strand of the original DNA more than the other. It finds use in some types of sequencing and hybridization probing where having only one of the two complementary stands is ideal. PCR is carried out as usual, but with a great excess of the primers for the chosen strand. Due to the slow (arithmetic) amplification later in the reaction after the limiting primer has been used up, extra cycles of PCR are required. A recent modification on this process, known as Linear-After-The-Exponential-PCR (LATE-PCR), uses a limiting primer with a higher melting temperature ( Tm) than the excess primer to maintain reaction efficiency as the limiting primer concentration decreases mid-reaction. Quantitative PCR - Q-PCR (Quantitative PCR) is used to measure the quantity of a PCR product (preferably real-time). It is the method of choice to quantitatively measure starting amounts of DNA, cDNA or RNA. Q-PCR is commonly used to determine whether a DNA sequence is present in a sample and the number of its copies in the sample. The method with currently the highest level of accuracy is Quantitative real-time PCR. It is often confusingly known as RT-PCR (Real Time PCR) or RQ-PCR. QRT-PCR or RTQ-PCR are more appropriate contractions. RT-PCR commonly refers to reverse transcription PCR (see above), which is often used in conjunction with Q-PCR. QRT-PCR methods use fluorescent dyes, such as Sybr Green, or fluorophore-containing DNA probes, such as TaqMan, to measure the amount of amplified product in real time. Touchdown PCR - Touchdown PCR is a variant of PCR that reduces nonspecific primer annealing by gradually lowering the annealing temperature as PCR cycling progresses. The annealing temperature at the initial cycles is usually a few degrees above the T m of the primers used, while at the later cycles, it is a few degrees below the primer T m . The higher temperatures give greater specificity for primer binding, and the lower temperatures permit more efficient amplification from the specific products formed during the initial cycles. Hot-start PCR is a technique that reduces non-specific priming that occurs during the preparation of the reaction components. The technique may be performed manually by simply heating the reaction components briefly at the melting temperature (e.g., 95˚C) before adding the polymerase. Specialized enzyme systems have been developed that inhibit the polymerase's activity at ambient temperature, either by the binding of an antibody or by the presence of covalently bound inhibitors that only dissociate after a high-temperature activation step. Hot-start/cold-finish PCR is achieved with new hybrid polymerases that are inactive at ambient temperature and are instantly activated at elongation temperature. Colony PCR - Bacterial clones (E.coli) can be screened for the correct ligation products. Selected colonies are picked with a sterile toothpick from an agarose plate and dabbed into the master mix or sterile water. Primers (and the master mix) are added - the PCR protocol has to be started with an extended time at 95˚C when standard polymerase is used or with shorten denaturation step at 100˚C and special chimeric DNA polymerase . Multiplex-PCR - The use of multiple, unique primer sets within a single PCR reaction to produce amplicons of varying sizes specific to different DNA sequences. By targeting multiple genes at once, additional information may be gained from a single test run that otherwise would require several times the reagents and more time to perform. Annealing temperatures for each of the primer sets must be optimized to work correctly within a single reaction, and amplicon sizes, i.e., their base pair length, should be different enough to form distinct bands when visualized by gel electrophoresis. Methylation Specific PCR - Methylation Specific PCR (MSP) is used to detect methylation of CpG islands in genomic DNA. DNA is first treated with sodium bisulfite, which converts unmethylated cytosine bases to uracil, which is recognized by PCR primers as thymine. Two PCR reactions are then carried out on the modified DNA, using primer sets identical except at any CpG islands within the primer sequences. At these points, one primer set recognizes DNA with cytosines to amplify methylated DNA, and one set recognizes DNA with uracil or thymine to amplify unmethylated DNA. MSP using qPCR can also be performed to obtain quantitative rather than qualitative information about methylation.
Recent developments in PCR techniques
A more recent method which excludes a temperature cycle, but uses enzymes, is helicase-dependent amplification . TAIL-PCR, developed by Liu et al. in 1995, is the thermal asymmetric interlaced PCR. Meta-PCR, developed by Andrew Wallace, allows to optimize amplification and direct sequence analysis of complex genes. Details at National Genetic Reference Laboratory, Manchester, UK (http://www.ngrl.org.uk/Manchester/Downloads/Meta_WebSite.pdf) Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA) permits multiple targets to be amplified with only a single primer pair, thus avoiding the resolution limitations of multiplex PCR.
Uses of PCR
PCR can be used for a broad variety of experiments and analyses. Some examples are discussed below.
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Polymerase chain reaction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Genetic fingerprinting is a forensic technique used to identify a person by comparing his or her DNA with the DNA in a given sample. An example is blood from a crime scene whose DNA is being genetically compared to DNA from a suspect. The sample may contain only a very small amount of DNA (obtained from a source such as blood, semen, saliva, hair, or other DNA-containing organic material). With the use of PCR, in theory, only a single DNA strand is needed, providing very high sensitivity to this technique, but increasing the risk of confounding results due to possible contamination with, and amplification of, DNA from extraneous sources. There are different PCR-based methods for fingerprinting, summarized in Genetic fingerprinting. The overall pattern of PCR-generated DNA fragments after gel electrophoresis and visualization by ethidium bromide staining (or hybridization with a DNA probe after Southern blotting), can be considered a DNA fingerprint analogous to the fingerprint pattern unique to each individual. Since there is a small probability that DNA from two individuals may give the same fingerprint (one in several million), this technique is more effective at acquitting a suspect than proving the suspect guilty.
Although these resulting 'fingerprints' are unique (except for identical twins), genetic relationships, for example, parent-child or siblings, can be determined from two or more genetic fingerprints, which can be used for paternity tests (Fig. 4). A variation of this technique can also be used to determine evolutionary relationships between organisms.
Detection of hereditary diseases
The detection of hereditary diseases in a given genome is a long and difficult process, which can be shortened significantly by using PCR. Each gene in question can easily be amplified through PCR by using the appropriate primers and then sequenced to detect mutations. Viral diseases, too, can be detected using PCR through amplification of the viral DNA. This analysis is possible right after infection, which can be from several days to several months before actual symptoms occur. Such early diagnoses give physicians a significant lead in treatment.
Cloning a gene, not to be confused with cloning a whole organism, describes the process of isolating a gene from one organism and then inserting it into another organism (now termed a genetically modified organism (GMO)). PCR is often used to amplify the gene, which can then be inserted into a vector (a vector is a piece of DNA which 'carries' the gene into the GMO) such as a plasmid (a circular DNA molecule) (Fig. 5). The DNA can then be transferred into an organism (the GMO) where the gene and its product can be studied more closely. Expressing a cloned gene (when a gene is expressed the gene product (usually protein or RNA) is produced by the GMO) can also be a way of mass-producing useful proteins, for example medicines or the enzymes in biological washing powders. The incorporation of an affinity tag on a recombinant protein will generate a fusion protein which can be more easily purified by affinity chromatography.
Figure 4: Electrophoresis of PCR-amplified DNA fragments. (1) Father. (2) Child. (3) Mother. The child has inherited some, but not all of the fingerprint of each of its parents, giving it a new, unique fingerprint.
Figure 5: Cloning a gene using a plasmid. (1) Chromosomal DNA of organism A. (2) PCR. (3) Multiple copies of a single gene from organism A. (4) Insertion of the gene into a plasmid. (5) Plasmid with gene from organism A. (6) Insertion of the plasmid in organism B. (7) Multiplication or expression of the gene, originally from organism A, occurring in organism B.
Mutagenesis is a way of making changes to the sequence of nucleotides in the DNA. There are situations in which one is interested in mutated (changed) copies of a given DNA strand, for example, when trying to assess the function of a gene or in in-vitro protein evolution (also known as Directed evolution). Mutations can be introduced into copied DNA sequences in two fundamentally different ways in the PCR process. Site-directed mutagenesis allows the experimenter to introduce a mutation at a specific location on the DNA strand. Usually, the desired mutation is incorporated in the primers used for the PCR program. Random mutagenesis, on the other hand, is based on the use of error-prone polymerases in the PCR process. In the case of random mutagenesis, the location and nature of the mutations cannot be controlled. One application of random mutagenesis is to analyze structure-function relationships of a protein. By randomly altering a DNA sequence, one can compare the resulting protein with the original and determine the function of each part of the protein.
Analysis of ancient DNA
Using PCR, it becomes possible to analyze DNA that is thousands of years old. PCR techniques have been successfully used on animals, such as a forty-thousand-year-old mammoth, and also on human DNA, in applications ranging from the analysis of Egyptian mummies to the identification of a Russian Tsar.
Genotyping of specific mutations
Through the use of allele-specific PCR, one can easily determine which allele of a mutation or polymorphism an individual has. Here, one of the two primers is common, and would anneal a short distance away from the mutation, while the other anneals right on the variation. The 3' end of the allele-specific primer is modified, to only anneal if it matches one of the alleles. If the mutation of interest is a T or C single nucleotide polymorphism (T/C SNP), one would use two reactions, one containing a primer ending in T, and the other ending in C. The common primer would be the same. Following PCR, these two sets of reactions would be run out on an agarose gel, and the band pattern will tell you if the individual is homozygous T, homozygous C, or heterozygous T/C. This methodology has several applications, such as amplifying certain haplotypes (when certain alleles at 2 or more SNPs occur together on the same chromosome Linkage Disequilibrium) or detection of recombinant chromosomes and the study of meiotic recombination.
Comparison of gene expression
Researchers have used traditional PCR as a way to estimate changes in the amount of a gene's expression. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is the molecule into which DNA is transcribed prior to making a protein, and those strands of RNA that hold the instructions for protein sequence are known as messenger RNA (mRNA). Once RNA is isolated it can be reverse transcribed back into DNA (complementary DNA or cDNA), at which point DNA-based PCR can be applied to amplify the gene, a method called RT-PCR. The proportion of mRNA transcripts from a given gene in a sample determines the relative proportion of cDNA amplified by PCR from this sample. When cDNA products of the PCR are fractionated on an agarose gel (see Figure 3 above) a band, corresponding to a highly expressed gene, often has higher intensity, due to its containing greater amounts of amplified DNA. This qualitative approach may be suited for a quick analysis of gene expression in differently treated organisms or tissues to identify levels of expression of a gene of interest. A more quantitative RT-PCR method has been developed, called Real-time PCR.
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Polymerase chain reaction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Polymerase chain reaction was invented by Kary Mullis . He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993 for his invention, only seven years after he and his colleagues at Cetus first reduced his proposal to practice. The idea was to develop a process by which DNA could be artificially multiplied through repeated cycles of duplication driven by an enzyme called DNA polymerase. DNA polymerase occurs naturally in living organisms. In cells it functions to duplicate DNA when cells divide in mitosis and meiosis. Polymerase works by binding to a single DNA strand and creating the complementary strand. In the first of many original processes, the enzyme was used in vitro (in a controlled environment outside an organism). The double-stranded DNA was separated into two single strands by heating it to 94°C (201°F). At this temperature, however, the DNA polymerase used at the time were destroyed, so the enzyme had to be replenished after the heating stage of each cycle. The original procedure was very inefficient, since it required a great deal of time, large amounts of DNA polymerase, and continual attention throughout the process. Later, this original PCR process was greatly improved by the use of DNA polymerase taken from thermophilic bacteria grown in geysers at a temperature of over 110°C (230°F). The DNA polymerase taken from these organisms is stable at high temperatures and, when used in PCR, does not break down when the mixture was heated to separate the DNA strands. Since there was no longer a need to add new DNA polymerase for each cycle, the process of copying a given DNA strand could be simplified and automated. One of the first thermostable DNA polymerases was obtained from Thermus aquaticus and was called "Taq." Taq polymerase is widely used in current PCR practice. A disadvantage of Taq is that it sometimes makes mistakes when copying DNA, leading to mutations (errors) in the DNA sequence, since it lacks 3'→5' proofreading exonuclease activity. Polymerases such as Pwo or Pfu, obtained from Archaea, have proofreading mechanisms (mechanisms that check for errors) and can significantly reduce the number of mutations that occur in the copied DNA sequence. However these enzymes polymerise DNA at a much slower rate than Taq. Combinations of both Taq and Pfu are available nowadays that provide both high processivity (fast polymerisation) and high fidelity (accurate duplication of DNA). PCR has been performed on DNA larger than 10 kilobases, but the average PCR is only several hundred to a few thousand bases of DNA. The problem with long PCR is that there is a balance between accuracy and processivity of the enzyme. Usually, the longer the fragment, the greater the probability of errors.
The PCR technique was patented by Cetus Corporation, where Mullis worked when he invented the technique in 1983. The Taq polymerase enzyme was also covered by patents. There have been several high-profile lawsuits related to the technique, including an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by DuPont. The pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche purchased the rights to the patents in 1992 and currently holds those that are still protected. A related patent battle over the Taq polymerase enzyme is still ongoing in several jurisdictions around the world between Roche and Promega. Interestingly, it seems possible that the legal arguments will extend beyond the life of the original PCR and Taq polymerase patents, which expired on March 28, 2005. 
1. ^ The history of PCR (http://www.siarchives.si.edu/research/videohistory_catalog9577.html ) : Smithsonian Institution Archives, Institutional History Division. Retrieved 24 June 2006. 2. ^ Mullis, Kary (1998). Dancing Naked in the Mind Field . New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-44255-3. 3. ^ Mullis KB. The unusual origin of the polymerase chain reaction. Sci Am 1990;262(4):56-61, 64-5. 4. ^ Cheng S, Fockler C, Barnes WM, Higuchi R (1994). "Effective amplification of long targets from cloned inserts and human genomic DNA". Proc Natl Acad Sci. 91: 5695-5699. PMID 8202550. 5. ^ Sambrook, Joseph; and David W. Russell (2001). Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual , 3rd ed., Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. ISBN 0-87969-576-5. 6. ^ Pavlov AR, Pavlova NV, Kozyavkin SA, Slesarev AI (2004). "Recent developments in the optimization of thermostable DNA polymerases for efficient applications". Trends Biotechnol. 22: 253-260. PMID 15109812. 7. ^ Pavlov AR, Belova GI, Kozyavkin SA, Slesarev AI (2002). "Helix-hairpin-helix motifs confer salt resistance and processivity on chimeric DNA polymerases". Proc Natl Acad Sci. 99: 3510-13515. PMID 12368475. 8. ^ Demidov VV (2002). "A happy marriage: advancing DNA polymerases with DNA topoisomerase supplements". Trends Biotechnol. 20: 491. DOI:10.1016/S0167-7799(02)02101-7 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0167-7799(02)02101-7 ) . 9. ^ Pavlov AR, Pavlova NV, Kozyavkin SA, Slesarev AI (2004). "Recent developments in the
optimization of thermostable DNA polymerases for efficient applications". Trends Biotechnol. 22: 253-260. PMID 15109812. 10. ^ Pavlov AR, Pavlova NV, Kozyavkin SA, Slesarev AI (2004). "Thermostable Chimeric DNA Polymerases with High Resistance to Inhibitors (http://www.horizonpress.com/hsp/abs/absdna.html ) ", DNA Amplification: Current Technologies and Applications. Horizon Bioscience, pp. 3-20. ISBN 0-9545232-9-6. 11. ^ Forterre P (2006). "DNA topoisomerase V: a new fold of mysterious origin". Trends Biotechnol. 24: 245-247. PMID 16650908. 12. ^ a b Pavlov AR, Pavlova NV, Kozyavkin SA, Slesarev AI (2006). "Thermostable DNA Polymerases for a Wide Spectrum of Applications: Comparison of a Robust Hybrid TopoTaq to other enzymes (http://bioscience.jbpub.com/catalog/0763733830/table_of_contents.htm ) ", in Kieleczawa J: DNA Sequencing II: Optimizing Preparation and Cleanup . Jones and Bartlett, pp. 241-257. ISBN 0-7637338-3-0. 13. ^ Taneja B, Patel A, Slesarev A, Mondragon A (2006). "Structure of the N-terminal fragment of topoisomerase V reveals a new family of topoisomerases". EMBO J. 25: 398-408. PMID 16395333. 14. ^ Rabinow, Paul (1996). Making PCR: A Story of Biotechnology . Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-70146-8. 15. ^ Advice on How to Survive the Taq Wars ¶2 (http://www.genengnews.com/articles/chitem.aspx?aid=1656&chid=0 ) : GEN Genetic Engineering News Biobusiness Channel: Article. May 1 2006 (Vol. 26, No. 9).
primer3 (http://primer3.sourceforge.net) Open-source PCR-primer design software Primer3Plus (http://www.bioinformatics.nl/cgi-bin/primer3plus/primer3plus.cgi) Easy and powerful primer design, based on primer3 US Patent for PCR (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN%2F4683 PCR - Polymerase Chain Reaction (http://www.pcrstation.com) Articles, news, bioinformatics, and protocols for PCR. PCR Interactive Animation (http://www.thehealthnews.org/news/06/08/02/pcr.html) Online simulation of PCR processes against sequenced prokaryotes (http://insilico.ehu.es/PCR) . Shockwave Animation of PCR by Dolan DNA Learning Center (http://www.dnalc.org/ddnalc/resources/pcr.html) . The PCR Jump Station (http://www.horizonpress.com/pcr/) Information and links on the polymerase chain reaction PCR Narrated flash animation (http://www.sumanasinc.com/webcontent/anisamples/molecularbiology/pcr.html) PCR at Home (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00035C6C-229B-1C74-9B81809EC588EF21) - Amateur Scientist article in the July 2000 issue of Scientific American PCR Animation (http://www.scanelis.com/webpages.aspx?rID=679) - PCR and Real-time PCR principles and comparison Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymerase_chain_reaction" Categories: Articles to be merged since March 2007 | Articles with unsourced statements since February 2007 | All articles with unsourced statements | Molecular biology | Polymerase chain reaction | Amplifiers | Hoffmann-La Roche This page was last modified 20:32, 8 April 2007. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a US-registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity.
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