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Extreme PCR: Robust, Efficient Amplification in < 1 Min
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Rapid-cycle PCR was introduced in 1990, reducing 2-4 hours of amplification to 10-15 min. Since that time, incremental progress has been made in reducing amplification times below 10 minutes, although yield and PCR efficiency often suffer at higher speeds. We now introduce, “Extreme PCR”, a method that combines <2 s thermal cycles with chemistry modifications to enhance the completion of annealing and extension segments. Specifically, primer and polymersase concentrations are increased so that primer annealing and complete extension near 100% efficiency each cycle. Cycle times of less than 1 s were obtained for PCR products less than 100 bp, resulting in specific, high-yield amplification as demonstrated by gels and melting curves. In addition, we introduce a new method for measuring polymerase activity under PCR conditions. Performed on real-time instruments, the effect of various components on extension rates reveal that monovalent cations, most Tm depressants, secondary structure, probes and dyes inhibit extension, while Mg++, temperature, GC content, and DMSO have local maxima. By studying the effect of different PCR components on extension rate, amplification speed can be optimized.

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