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Nucleic Acids Res. 1997 Jun 15;25(12):2516-21.

A closed tube format for amplification and detection of DNA based on energy transfer.

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Oncor, Inc., 209 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, USA.


A new method for the direct detection of PCR-amplified DNA in a closed system is described. The method is based on the incorporation of energy transfer-labeled primers into the amplification product. The PCR primers contain hairpin structures on their 5'ends with donor and acceptor moieties located in close proximity on the hairpin stem. The primers are designed in such a way that a fluorescent signal is generated only when the primers are incorporated into an amplification product. A signal to background ratio of 35:1 was obtained using the hairpin primers labeled with fluorescein as a donor and 4-(4'-dimethylaminophenylazo) benzoic acid (DABCYL) as a quencher. The modified hairpin-primers do not interfere with the activity of DNA polymerase, and both thermostable Pfu and Taq polymerase can be used. This method was applied to the detection of cDNA for prostate specific antigen. The results demonstrate that the fluorescent intensity of the amplified product correlates with the amount of incorporated primers, and as few as 10 molecules of the initial template can be detected. This technology eliminates the risk of carry-over contamination, simplifies the amplification assay and opens up new possibilities for the real-time quantification of the amplified DNA over an extremely wide dynamic range.

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