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Nanoscale. 2011 Apr;3(4):1741-7. doi: 10.1039/c0nr00833h. Epub 2011 Feb 21.

Effect of surface charge of polyethyleneimine-modified multiwalled carbon nanotubes on the improvement of polymerase chain reaction.

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State Key Laboratory for Modification of Chemical Fibers and Polymer Materials, Donghua University, Shanghai, 201620, PR China.


In molecular biology, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has played an important role but suffers a general problem with low efficiency and specificity. Development of suitable additives to improve the PCR specificity and efficiency and the understanding of the PCR enhancing mechanism still remain a great challenge. Here we report the use of polyethyleneimine (PEI)-modified multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) with different surface charge polarities as a novel class of enhancers to improve the specificity and efficiency of PCR. The materials used included the positively charged PEI-modified MWCNTs (CNT/PEI), the neutral CNT/PEI modified with acetic anhydride (CNT/PEI.Ac), and the negatively charged CNT/PEI modified with succinic anhydride (CNT/PEI.SAH). We show that the specificity and efficiency of an error-prone two-round PCR are greatly impacted by the surface charge polarity of the PEI-modified MWCNTs. Positively charged CNT/PEI could significantly enhance the specificity and efficiency of PCR with an optimum concentration as low as 0.39 mg L(-1), whereas neutral CNT/PEI.Ac had no such effect. Although negatively charged CNT/PEI.SAH could enhance the PCR, the optimum concentration required (630 mg L(-1)) was more than 3 orders of magnitude higher than that of positively charged CNT/PEI. The present study suggests that the PCR enhancing effect may be primarily based on the electrostatic interaction between the positively charged CNT/PEI and the negatively charged PCR components, rather than only on the thermal conductivity of MWCNTs.

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