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Int J Nanomedicine. 2012;7:1069-78. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S28947. Epub 2012 Feb 22.

Enhancing the specificity and efficiency of polymerase chain reaction using polyethyleneimine-based derivatives and hybrid nanocomposites.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory for Modification of Chemical Fibers and Polymer Materials, Donghua University, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.


There is a general necessity to improve the specificity and efficiency of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and exploring the PCR-enhancing mechanism still remains a great challenge. In this paper we report the use of branched polyethyleneimine (PEI)-based derivatives and hybrid nanocomposites as a novel class of enhancers to improve the specificity and efficiency of a nonspecific PCR system. We show that the surface-charge polarity of PEI and PEI derivatives plays a major role in their effectiveness to enhance the PCR. Positively charged amine-terminated pristine PEI, partially (50%) acetylated PEI (PEI-Ac(50)), and completely acetylated PEI (PEI-Ac) are able to improve PCR efficiency and specificity with an optimum concentration order of PEI < PEI-Ac(50) < PEI-Ac, whereas negatively charged carboxyl-terminated PEI (PEI-SAH; SAH denotes succinamic acid groups) and neutralized PEI modified with both polyethylene glycol (PEG) and acetyl (Ac) groups (PEI-PEG-Ac) are unable to improve PCR specificity and efficiency even at concentrations three orders of magnitude higher than that of PEI. Our data clearly suggests that the PCR-enhancing effect is primarily based on the interaction between the PCR components and the PEI derivatives, where electrostatic interaction plays a major role in concentrating the PCR components locally on the backbones of the branched PEI. In addition, multiwalled carbon nanotubes modified with PEI and PEI-stabilized gold nanoparticles are also able to improve the PCR specificity and efficiency with an optimum PEI concentration less than that of the PEI alone, indicating that the inorganic component of the nanocomposites may help improve the interaction between PEI and the PCR components. The developed PEI-based derivatives or nanocomposites may be used as efficient additives to enhance other PCR systems for different biomedical applications.


efficiency; gold nanoparticles; multiwalled carbon nanotubes; nanocomposites; polyethyleneimine; polymerase chain reaction; specificity

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