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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 Nov 15;1494(1-2):23-7.

The PCR plateau phase - towards an understanding of its limitations.

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University of Salzburg, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, A-5020, Salzburg, Austria.


The DNA polymerases from Thermus aquaticus and Thermus flavus were recently found to bind to short double-stranded DNA fragments without sequence specificity [Kainz et al. (2000) Biotechniques 28, 278-82]. In the present study, it is shown that the accumulation of amplification products during later PCR cycles also exerts an inhibitory effect on several enzymes tested. To simulate later cycle conditions, a 1.7 kb sequence from phage lambda DNA was amplified in the presence of various amounts of a 1 kb double-stranded DNA fragment. A 30-fold molar excess of fragments to polymerase molecules was found to be required for a complete inhibition of Taq, Tfl and Pwo DNA polymerase. This stoichiometric relation remained constant when PCR amplifications were performed using polymerase concentrations of 0.5, 1 or 1.5 U/50 microl reaction volume. The amount of 1 kb DNA fragments required for a complete inhibition was similar to the product yield of the controls (no fragment added), that were run to plateau phase levels. Additionally, PCR mixtures, that were subjected to different numbers of cycles, were compared in their ability to extend 3'-recessed ends by using a hairpin extension assay. The presence of endogenous amplicon DNA accumulated in later PCR cycles was found to inhibit completely the activity of DNA polymerase. PCR mixtures still in quasi-linear phase partially extended the hairpins. In both cases, a further addition of polymerase significantly improved their function. These results indicate that the main factor contributing to the plateau phase in PCR consists of binding of DNA polymerase to its amplification products.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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