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Clin Chem. 2012 Jul;58(7):1130-8. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2012.183095. Epub 2012 May 15.

Temperature-tolerant COLD-PCR reduces temperature stringency and enables robust mutation enrichment.

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Division of DNA Repair and Genome Stability, Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



Low-level mutations in clinical tumor samples often reside below mutation detection limits, thus leading to false negatives that may impact clinical diagnosis and patient management. COLD-PCR (coamplification at lower denaturation temperature PCR) is a technology that magnifies unknown mutations during PCR, thus enabling downstream mutation detection. However, a practical difficulty in applying COLD-PCR has been the requirement for strict control of the denaturation temperature for a given sequence, to within ±0.3 °C. This requirement precludes simultaneous mutation enrichment in sequences of substantially different melting temperature (T(m)) and limits the technique to a single sequence at a time. We present a temperature-tolerant (TT) approach (TT-COLD-PCR) that reduces this obstacle.


We describe thermocycling programs featuring a gradual increase of the denaturation temperature during COLD-PCR. This approach enabled enrichment of mutations when the cycling achieves the appropriate critical denaturation temperature of each DNA amplicon that is being amplified. Validation was provided for KRAS (v-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog) and TP53 (tumor protein p53) exons 6-9 by use of dilutions of mutated DNA, clinical cancer samples, and plasma-circulating DNA.


A single thermocycling program with a denaturation-temperature window of 2.5-3.0 °C enriches mutations in all DNA amplicons simultaneously, despite their different T(m)s. Mutation enrichments of 6-9-fold were obtained with TT-full-COLD-PCR. Higher mutation enrichments were obtained for the other 2 forms of COLD-PCR, fast-COLD-PCR, and ice-COLD-PCR.


Low-level mutations in diverse amplicons with different T(m)s can be mutation enriched via TT-COLD-PCR provided that their T(m)s fall within the denaturation-temperature window applied during amplification. This approach enables simultaneous enrichment of mutations in several amplicons and increases significantly the versatility of COLD-PCR.

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