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Appl Environ Microbiol. Feb 1996; 62(2): 625–630.
PMCID: PMC167828

Bias caused by template annealing in the amplification of mixtures of 16S rRNA genes by PCR.


The PCR is used widely for the study of rRNA genes amplified from mixed microbial populations. These studies resemble quantitative applications of PCR in that the templates are mixtures of homologs and the relative abundance of amplicons is thought to provide some measure of the gene ratios in the starting mixture. Although such studies have established the presence of novel rRNA genes in many natural ecosystems, inferences about gene abundance have been limited by uncertainties about the relative efficiency of gene amplification in the PCR. To address this question, three rRNA gene standards were prepared by PCR, mixed in known proportions, and amplified a second time by using primer pairs in which one primer was labeled with a fluorescent nucleotide derivative. The PCR products were digested with restriction endonucleases, and the frequencies of genes in the products were determined by electrophoresis on an Applied Biosystems 373A automated DNA sequencer in Genescan mode. Mixtures of two templates amplified with the 519F-1406R primer pair yielded products in the predicted proportions. A second primer pair (27F-338R) resulted in strong bias towards 1:1 mixtures of genes in final products, regardless of the initial proportions of the templates. This bias was strongly dependent on the number of cycles of replication. The results fit a kinetic model in which the reannealing of genes progressively inhibits the formation of template-primer hybrids.

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Selected References

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