Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current method of choice for detection and quantification of nucleic acids, especially for molecular diagnostics. Complementarity between primers and template is often crucial for PCR applications, as mismatches can severely reduce priming efficiency. However, little quantitative data on the effect of these mismatches is available. We quantitatively investigated the effects of primer-template mismatches within the 3′-end primer region on real-time PCR using the 5′-nuclease assay. Our results show that single mismatches instigate a broad variety of effects, ranging from minor (<1.5 cycle threshold, eg, A-C, C-A, T-G, G-T) to severe impact (>7.0 cycle threshold, eg, A-A, G-A, A-G, C-C) on PCR amplification. A clear relationship between specific mismatch types, position, and impact was found, which remained consistent for DNA versus RNA amplifications and Taq/Moloney murine leukemia virus versus rTth based amplifications. The overall size of the impact among the various master mixes used differed substantially (up to sevenfold), and for certain master mixes a reverse or forward primer-specific impact was observed, emphasizing the importance of the experimental conditions used. Taken together these data suggest that mismatch impact follows a consistent pattern and enabled us to formulate several guidelines for predicting primer-template mismatch behavior when using specific 5-nuclease assay master mixes. Our study provides novel insight into mismatch behavior and should allow for more optimized development of real-time PCR assays involving primer-template mismatches.

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Keywords 3' untranslated region, Moloney leukemia oncovirus, article, enzymatic assay, gene amplification, nonhuman, nuclease, nucleic acid analysis, quantitative analysis, real time polymerase chain reaction, virus DNA, virus RNA
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Stadhouders, R., Pas, S.D., Anber, J., Voermans, J., Mes, T.H.M., & Schutten, M.. (2010). The effect of primer-template mismatches on the detection and quantification of nucleic acids using the 5′ nuclease assay. The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, 12(1), 109–117. doi:10.2353/jmoldx.2010.090035