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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Aug;40(14):e109. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks316. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Characterization of a novel DNA polymerase activity assay enabling sensitive, quantitative and universal detection of viable microbes.

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ZEUS Scientific Incorporated, Research and Development, 200 Evans Way, Branchburg, NJ 08876, USA.


During the past 50 years, in vitro measurement of DNA polymerase activity has become an essential molecular biology tool. Traditional methods used to measure DNA polymerase activity in vitro are undesirable due to the usage of radionucleotides. Fluorescence-based DNA polymerase assays have been developed; however, they also suffer from various limitations. Herein we present a rapid, highly sensitive and quantitative assay capable of measuring DNA polymerase extension activity from purified enzymes or directly from microbial lysates. When tested with purified DNA polymerase, the assay detected as little as 2 × 10(-11)U of enzyme (∼ 50 molecules), while demonstrating excellent linearity (R(2)=0.992). The assay was also able to detect endogenous DNA polymerase extension activity down to less than 10 colony forming units (cfu) of input Gram-positive or Gram-negative bacteria when coupled to bead mill lysis while maintaining an R(2)=0.999. Furthermore, preliminary evidence presented here suggests that DNA polymerase extension activity is an indicator of microbial viability, as demonstrated by the reproducibly strong concordance between assay signal and bacterial colony formation. Together, the innovative methodology described here represents a significant advancement toward sensitive detection of potentially any microorganism containing active DNA polymerase within a given sample matrix.

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