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BMC Genomics. 2006 Oct 9;7:253.

Design factors that influence PCR amplification success of cross-species primers among 1147 mammalian primer pairs.

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Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1314, USA. <>



Cross-species primers have been used with moderate success to address a variety of questions concerning genome structure, evolution, and gene function. However, the factors affecting their success have never been adequately addressed, particularly with respect to producing a consistent method to achieve high throughput. Using 1,147 mammalian cross-species primer pairs (1089 not previously reported), we tested several factors to determine their influence on the probability that a given target will amplify in a given species under a single amplification condition. These factors included: number of mismatches between the two species (the index species) used to identify conserved regions to which the primers were designed, GC-content of the gene and amplified region, CpG dinucleotides in the primer region, degree of encoded protein conservation, length of the primers, and the degree of evolutionary distance between the target species and the two index species.


The amplification success rate for the cross-species primers was significantly influenced by the number of mismatches between the two index species (6-8% decrease per mismatch in a primer pair), the GC-content within the amplified region (for the dog, GC > or = 50%, 56.9% amplified; GC<50%, 74.2% amplified), the degree of protein conservation (R2 = 0.14) and the relatedness of the target species to the index species. For the dog, 598 products of 930 primer pairs (64.3%) (excluding primers in which dog was an index species) were sequenced and shown to be the expected product, with an additional three percent producing the incorrect sequence. When hamster DNA was used with the single amplification condition in a microtiter plate-based format, 510 of 1087 primer pairs (46.9%) produced amplified products. The primer pairs are spaced at an average distance of 2.3 Mb in the human genome and may be used to produce up to several hundred thousand bp of species-specific sequence.


The most important factors influencing the proportion of successful amplifications are the number of index species mismatches, GC-richness of the target amplimer, and the relatedness of the target species to the index species, at least under the single PCR condition used. The 1147 cross-species primer pairs can be used in a high throughput manner to generate data for studies on the genetics and genomics of non-sequenced mammalian genomes.

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