Primer Design for PCR Reactions in Forensic Biology
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The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a popular method to copy DNA in vitro. Its invention revolutionized fields ranging from clinical medicine to anthropology, molecular biology, and forensic biology. The method employs one of many available heat-stable DNA polymerases in a reaction that is repeated many times in situ. The DNA polymerase reads a template DNA strand and using the components of the reaction mix, catalyzes the addition of free 2′-deoxynucleotide triphosphate nitrogenous bases to short segment of DNA that forms a complement with the template via Watson–Crick base pairing. This short segment of DNA is referred to as a PCR primer and it is essential to the success of the reaction. The most widely used application of PCR in forensic labs is the amplification of short tandem repeat (STR) loci used in DNA typing. The STRs are routinely evaluated in concert with 16 or more reactions, a multiplex, run in one test tube simultaneously. In a multiplex, it is essential that the primers work specifically and accurately on the intended reactions without hindering the other reactions. The primers, which are very specific, also can be used to probe single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a DNA sequence of interest by single base extension. Primers are often designed using one of many available automated software packages. Here the process of manually designing PCR primers for forensic biology using no-cost software is described.
Key wordsMolecular biology Nucleic acids/DNA/RNA Hydrogen bonding Oligonucleotide DNA polymerases Polymerase chain reaction PCR primer STR SNP
Thank you to the editors for inviting me to submit this chapter. This work was supported by start-up funds provided by Towson University (K.M.E.). The author is grateful to Zoë Krohn, Suzanne Gray, and Alison Eychner for testing the protocol as written.
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