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J Immunol Methods. 2004 Mar;286(1-2):203-17.

Real-time RT-PCR: considerations for efficient and sensitive assay design.

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School of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK.


Real-time RT-PCR has been recognised as an accurate and sensitive method of quantifying mRNA transcripts. Absence of post amplification procedures allows rapid analysis with a greater sample throughput, yet with less risk of amplicon carry-over as reaction tubes are not opened. In order to maximise sensitivity, careful reaction design and optimisation is essential. Several aspects of assay design for real-time RT-PCR are discussed in this paper. We demonstrate the effect of amplicon secondary structure on reaction efficiency and its importance for primer design. Taq-man probes with a deoxyguanosine base at the 5' end fluoresce weakly when labelled with FAM, although weak fluorescence is not a problem when probes are labelled with Texas Red. DNA contamination of RNA samples purified using silica membrane columns is a significant problem but DNase digestion can be used to reduce this, particularly in-solution. MMLV and AMV enzyme systems using a variety of RT priming methods are compared and the problem of primer-dimer formation associated with RT enzymes is described.

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