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Biotechniques. 2004 Oct;37(4):642-4, 646, 648 passim.

Mass spectrometry provides accurate characterization of two genetic marker types in Bacillus anthracis.

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Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5640, USA.


Epidemiological and forensic analyses of bioterrorism events involving Bacillus anthracis could be improved if both variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) could be combined on a single analysis platform. Here we present the use of electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (ESI-FTICR-MS) to characterize 24 alleles from 6 VNTR loci and 11 alleles from 7 SNP loci in B. anthracis. The results obtained with ESI-FTICR-MS were consistent with independent results obtained from traditional approaches using electrophoretic detection of fluorescent products. However, ESI-FTICR-MS improves on the traditional approaches because it does not require fluorescent labeling of PCR products, minimizes post-PCR processing, obviates electrophoresis, and provides unambiguous base composition of both SNP and VNTR PCR products. In addition, ESI-FTICR-MS allows both marker types to be examined simultaneously and at a rate of approximately 1 sample per min. This technology represents a significant advance in our ability to rapidly characterize B. anthracis isolates using VNTR and SNP loci.

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