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Journal Article

The polymerase chain reaction: an improved method for the analysis of nucleic acids


Vosberg,  Hans−Peter
Max Planck Society;

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Vosberg, H. (1989). The polymerase chain reaction: an improved method for the analysis of nucleic acids. Human Genetics, 83(1), 1-15. doi:10.1007/BF00274139.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0019-AE0A-C
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method for the selective amplification of DNA or RNA segments of up to 2 kilobase-pairs (kb) or more in length. Synthetic oligonucleotides flanking sequences of interest are used in repeated cycles of enzymatic primer extension in opposite and overlapping directions. The essential steps in each cycle are thermal denaturation of double-stranded target molecules, primer annealing to both strands and enzymatic synthesis of DNA. The use of the heat-stable DNA polymerase from the archebacterium Thermus aquaticus (Taq polymerase) makes the reaction amenable to automation. Since both strands of a given DNA segment are used as templates, the number of target sequences increases exponentially. The reaction is simple, fast and extremely sensitive. The DNA or RNA content of a single cell is sufficient to detect a specific sequence. This method greatly facilitates the diagnosis of mutations or sequence polymorphisms of various types in human genetics, and the detection of pathogenic components and conditions in the context of clinical research and diagnostics; it is also useful in simplifying complex analytical or synthetic protocols in basic molecular biology. This article describes the principles of the reaction and discusses the applications in different areas of biomedical research.