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1.  3′-Minor groove binder-DNA probes increase sequence specificity at PCR extension temperatures 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(2):655-661.
DNA probes with conjugated minor groove binder (MGB) groups form extremely stable duplexes with single-stranded DNA targets, allowing shorter probes to be used for hybridization based assays. In this paper, sequence specificity of 3′-MGB probes was explored. In comparison with unmodified DNA, MGB probes had higher melting temperature (Tm) and increased specificity, especially when a mismatch was in the MGB region of the duplex. To exploit these properties, fluorogenic MGB probes were prepared and investigated in the 5′-nuclease PCR assay (real-time PCR assay, TaqMan assay). A 12mer MGB probe had the same Tm (65°C) as a no-MGB 27mer probe. The fluorogenic MGB probes were more specific for single base mismatches and fluorescence quenching was more efficient, giving increased sensitivity. A/T rich duplexes were stabilized more than G/C rich duplexes, thereby leveling probe Tm and simplifying design. In summary, MGB probes were more sequence specific than standard DNA probes, especially for single base mismatches at elevated hybridization temperatures.
PMCID: PMC102528  PMID: 10606668
2.  Detection, quantification and genotyping of Herpes Simplex Virus in cervicovaginal secretions by real-time PCR: a cross sectional survey 
Virology Journal  2005;2:61.
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Genital Ulcer Disease (GUD) is an important public health problem, whose interaction with HIV results in mutually enhancing epidemics. Conventional methods for detecting HSV tend to be slow and insensitive. We designed a rapid PCR-based assay to quantify and type HSV in cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) fluid of subjects attending a Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic. Vaginal swabs, CVL fluid and venous blood were collected. Quantitative detection of HSV was conducted using real time PCR with HSV specific primers and SYBR Green I. Fluorogenic TaqMan Minor Groove Binder (MGB) probes designed around a single base mismatch in the HSV DNA polymerase I gene were used to type HSV in a separate reaction. The Kalon test was used to detect anti-HSV-2 IgG antibodies in serum. Testing for HIV, other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and related infections was based on standard clinical and laboratory methods.
Seventy consecutive GUM clinic attendees were studied. Twenty-seven subjects (39%) had detectable HSV DNA in CVL fluid; HSV-2 alone was detected in 19 (70%) subjects, HSV-1 alone was detected in 4 (15%) subjects and both HSV types were detected in 4 (15%) subjects. Eleven out of 27 subjects (41%) with anti-HSV-2 IgG had detectable HSV-2 DNA in CVL fluid. Seven subjects (10%) were HIV-positive. Three of seven (43%) HIV-infected subjects and two of five subjects with GUD (40%) were secreting HSV-2. None of the subjects in whom HSV-1 was detected had GUD.
Quantitative real-time PCR and Taqman MGB probes specific for HSV-1 or -2 were used to develop an assay for quantification and typing of HSV. The majority of subjects in which HSV was detected had low levels of CVL fluid HSV, with no detectable HSV-2 antibodies and were asymptomatic.
PMCID: PMC1236615  PMID: 16095535
3.  Real-Time PCR-Based Pathotyping of Newcastle Disease Virus by Use of TaqMan Minor Groove Binder Probes▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(7):2114-2123.
A real-time reverse-transcription PCR was developed to detect and pathotype Newcastle disease viruses (NDV) in clinical samples. Degenerate oligonucleotide primers and TaqMan probes with nonfluorescent minor groove binder (MGB) quencher amplified and hybridized to a region in the fusion protein (F) gene that corresponds to the cleavage site of the F0 precursor, which is a key determinant of NDV pathogenicity. The application of degenerate primers and TaqMan MGB probes provided high specificity to the assay, as was shown by the successful and rapid pathotype determination of 39 NDV strains representing all the known genotypes (I to VIII) and pathotypes (lentogens/mesogens/velogens). The PCR assays specific for lentogenic and velogenic/mesogenic strains had high analytical sensitivity, detecting approximately 10 and 20 copies of the target molecule per reaction, respectively. The detection limit was also determined in terms of 50% egg infective dose (EID50) by using dilution series of virus stock solutions to be approximately 101.0 and 10−1.3 EID50/ml for lentogens and velogens/mesogens, respectively. Organ, swab, and stool specimens from experimentally infected animals were tested to prove the clinical suitability of the method. The results of this study suggest that the described real-time PCR assay has the potential to be used for the rapid detection/pathotyping of NDV isolates and qualitative/quantitative measurement of the virus load.
PMCID: PMC2708511  PMID: 19439542
4.  A quantitative real-time PCR assay for the highly sensitive and specific detection of human faecal influence in spring water from a large alpine catchment area 
Letters in applied microbiology  2007;44(4):351-356.
The aim of the study was the development of a sensitive human specific quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assay for microbial faecal source tracking (MST) in alpine spring water. The assay detects human specific faecal DNA markers (BacH) from 16S rRNA gene sequences from the phylum Bacteroidetes using TaqMan® minor groove binder (MGB) probes.
Methods and Results
The qualitative and quantitative detection limits of the PCR assay were 6 and 30 marker copies, respectively. Specificity was proven by testing 41 human faeces and waste water samples and excluding cross-amplification from 302 animal faecal samples from Eastern Austria. Marker concentrations in human faecal material were in the range from 6.6 × 109 to 9.1 × 1010 marker equivalents per gram. The method was sensitive enough to detect a few hundred pg of faeces in faecal suspensions. The assay was applied on water samples from an alpine karstic spring catchment area and the results reflected the expected levels of human faecal influence.
The method exhibited sufficient sensitivity to allow quantitative source tracking of human faecal impact in the investigated karstic spring water.
Significance and Impact of Study
The developed method constitutes the first quantitative human specific MST tool sensitive enough for investigations in ground and spring water.
PMCID: PMC3068607  PMID: 17397471
5.  MGB probe assay for rapid detection of mtDNA11778 mutation in the Chinese LHON patients by real-time PCR*  
Objective: Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) is a maternally inherited degeneration of the optic nerve caused by point mutations of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Many unsolved questions regarding the penetrance and pathophysiological mechanism of LHON demand efficient and reliable mutation testing. This study aims to develop a minor groove binder (MGB) probe assay for rapid detection of mtDNA11778 mutation and heteroplasmy in Chinese LHON patients by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Methods: Forty-eight patients suspected of having LHON and their maternal relatives underwent a molecular genetic evaluation, with 20 normal individuals as a control group at the same time. A real-time PCR involving two MGB probes was used to detect the mtDNA11778 mutation and heteroplasmy. A linear standard curve was obtained by pUCmLHONG and pUCmLHONA clones. Results: All 48 LHON patients and their maternal relatives were positive for mtDNA11778 mutation in our assay, 27 heteroplasmic and 21 homoplasmic. Eighteen cases did not show an occurrence of the disease, while 9 developed the disease among the 27 heteroplasmic mutation cases. Eleven did not show an occurrence of the disease, while 10 cases developed the disease among 21 homoplasmic mutation cases. There was a significant difference in the incidence between the heteroplasmic and the homoplasmic mutation types. The time needed for running a real-time PCR assay was only 80 min. Conclusion: This real-time PCR assay is a rapid, reliable method for mtDNA mutation detection as well as heteroplasmy quantification. Detecting this ratio is very important for predicting phenotypic expression of unaffected carriers.
PMCID: PMC2491690  PMID: 18763310
Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON); Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); MtDNA11778 mutation; Minor groove binder (MGB) probe; Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
6.  Chromosomal Integration of Transduced Recombinant Baculovirus DNA in Mammalian Cells 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(2):903-909.
Our group and others have recently demonstrated the ability of recombinant baculoviruses to transduce mammalian cells at high frequency. To further characterize the use of baculovirus as a mammalian gene delivery system, we examined the status of transduced DNA stably maintained in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. Four independent clones carrying two introduced markers, the genes for neomycin resistance (Neo) and green fluorescent protein (GFP), were selected. PCR analysis, Southern blotting, and DNA sequencing showed that discrete portions of the 148-kb baculovirus DNA were present as single-copy fragments ranging in size from 5 to 18 kb. Integration into the CHO cell genome was confirmed by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis. For one clone, the left and right viral/chromosomal junctions were determined by DNA sequencing of inverse PCR products. Similarly, for a different clone, the left viral/chromosomal junction was determined; however, the right junction sequence revealed the joining to another viral fragment by a short homology (microhomology), a hallmark of illegitimate recombination. The random viral breakpoints and the lack of homology between the virus and flanking chromosomal sequences are also suggestive of an illegitimate integration mechanism. To examine the long-term stability of reporter gene expression, all four clones were grown continuously for 36 passages in either the presence or absence of selection for Neo. Periodic assays over a 5-month period showed no loss of GFP expression for at least two of the clones. This report represents the first detailed analysis of baculovirus integrants within mammalian cells. The potential advantages of the baculovirus system for the stable integration of genetic material into mammalian genomes are discussed.
PMCID: PMC113986  PMID: 11134303
7.  Detection of Brugia Parasite DNA in Human Blood by Real-Time PCR▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(11):3887-3893.
Brugian filariasis (caused by the nematodes Brugia malayi and B. timori) is an important cause of disability in Southeast Asia. Improved diagnostic tests are needed for filariasis elimination programs (to identify areas of endemicity and to monitor progress) and for diagnosis of the disease in infected individuals. We have developed and evaluated two real-time PCR assays for detecting Brugia DNA in human blood and compared the results of these assays to those of “gold standard” assays. One assay uses a TaqMan probe (TaqM) to amplifiy a 320-bp “HhaI repeat” DNA sequence. The other assay uses a minor groove binding probe (MGB) and modified nucleotides in primers (Eclipse MGB) to amplify a 120-bp fragment of the HhaI repeat. This assay detects 22 copies of the target sequence, and it is more sensitive than the TaqM assay. Both assays were evaluated with human blood samples from two different areas of endemicity. The MGB assay was as sensitive as membrane filtration and microscopy for the detection of B. malayi infection in 57 blood samples recovered at night from patients in Sulawesi, Indonesia. The MGB assay also detected parasite DNA in 17 of 31 (55%) of microfilaria-negative day blood samples from these subjects. This test was more sensitive than the conventional and the TaqM PCRs (and was almost as sensitive as night blood membrane filtration) for the detection of infection in 52 blood samples recovered at night from individuals in an area of B. timori endemicity on Alor Island, Indonesia, where microfilaria-positive individuals had low densities after mass treatment. Thus, the Eclipse MGB real-time PCR assay is a sensitive means of detecting Brugia parasite DNA in human blood.
PMCID: PMC1698366  PMID: 16957038
8.  Zip nucleic acid: a new reliable method to increase the melting temperature of real-time PCR probes 
TaqMan genotyping with real-time PCR is a reliable method for single nucleotide polymorphism detection, which is done by probes. These oligonucleotides should be short enough to avoid mismatch hybridization, as well as having 5–10°C higher melting temperature than the primers of real-time PCR reaction. One approach for these qualities is to conjugate the probe with minor groove binder (MGB). Having no access to MGB probes, we searched for an alternative. In the current study, we used Zip Nucleic Acids (ZNA) as probes to increase its stability and melting temperature. Our aim was to genotype the -265 T/C changes of Apolipoprotein A-2 gene. We set up the real-time PCR reaction with ZNA probes, and by repeating the reactions, we confirmed the reliability of this new approach. It is now recommended to use ZNA probes, as an alternative to MGB probes, to increase the probe Tm value and its binding to target DNA.
PMCID: PMC3922743  PMID: 24495816
ZNA; Zip nucleic acid; Melting temperature; MGB; Minor groove binder; Probe; SNP genotyping; Real-time PCR
9.  Homologous recombination of copackaged retrovirus RNAs during reverse transcription. 
Journal of Virology  1992;66(4):2378-2388.
According to prevailing models, the high frequency of recombination in retroviruses occurs during reverse transcription of two genetically different genomes copackaged into virion particles. This view has been tested in our studies of the mechanism of recombination within homologous sequences of two retroviral genomes during a single round of virus replication and in the absence of helper virus. The recombination substrates were Moloney murine leukemia virus-based vectors, each of which contains an altered defective neomycin gene (neo) under the transcriptional control of the 5' long terminal repeat; the 3' sequences of each construct contain either the Moloney murine leukemia virus or simian virus 40 large-T polyadenylation sequence. One neo gene contained a linker insertion mutation at the 5' end (neo minus), and the other contained a deletion and linker insertion at the 3' end (neo delta 3). Each of the mutant neo constructs was introduced into the packaging helper cell line psi 2 by sequential cotransfection, and individual psi 2 double transformants were selected. Supernatant fluids from the cloned psi 2 double transformants were used to infect NIH 3T3 cells, and recombinant neo+ proviruses were detected by their ability to confer G418 resistance during infection of NIH 3T3 cells. Our results show that (i) recombination between a homologous sequence of about 560 bp occurred with a frequency of about 10(-4) per virus replication cycle; (ii) recombination occurred only after the viral RNAs had been packaged into particles, i.e., recombination between the two vector DNAs or between viral RNAs prior to packaging was not detected; and (iii) copackaging of two different genomic RNAs as a heterodimer is a prerequisite for recombination. Furthermore, our results indicate that recombination can occur during the DNA negative-strand synthesis of reverse transcription.
PMCID: PMC289033  PMID: 1372369
10.  The Allele-Specific Probe and Primer Amplification Assay, a New Real-Time PCR Method for Fine Quantification of Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms in Pooled DNA 
The evolution of fungicide resistance within populations of plant pathogens must be monitored to develop management strategies. Such monitoring often is based on microbiological tests, such as microtiter plate assays. Molecular monitoring methods can be considered if the mutations responsible for resistance have been identified. Allele-specific real-time PCR approaches, such as amplification refractory mutation system (ARMS) PCR and mismatch amplification mutation assay (MAMA) PCR, are, despite their moderate efficacy, among the most precise methods for refining SNP quantification. We describe here a new real-time PCR method, the allele-specific probe and primer amplification assay (ASPPAA PCR). This method makes use of mixtures of allele-specific minor groove binder (MGB) TaqMan probes and allele-specific primers for the fine quantification of SNPs from a pool of DNA extracted from a mixture of conidia. It was developed for a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that is responsible for resistance to the sterol biosynthesis inhibitor fungicide fenhexamid, resulting in the replacement of the phenylalanine residue (encoded by the TTC codon) in position 412 of the enzymatic target (3-ketoreductase) by a serine (TCC), valine (GTC), or isoleucine (ATC) residue. The levels of nonspecific amplification with the ASPPAA PCR were reduced at least four times below the level of currently available allele-specific real-time PCR approaches due to strong allele specificity in amplification cycles, including two allele selectors. This new method can be used to quantify a complex quadriallelic SNP in a DNA pool with a false discovery rate of less than 1%.
PMCID: PMC3272996  PMID: 22156413
11.  TaqMan MGB Probe Fluorescence Real-Time Quantitative PCR for Rapid Detection of Chinese Sacbrood Virus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e52670.
Sacbrood virus (SBV) is a picorna-like virus that affects honey bees (Apis mellifera) and results in the death of the larvae. Several procedures are available to detect Chinese SBV (CSBV) in clinical samples, but not to estimate the level of CSBV infection. The aim of this study was develop an assay for rapid detection and quantification of this virus. Primers and probes were designed that were specific for CSBV structural protein genes. A TaqMan minor groove binder (MGB) probe-based, fluorescence real-time quantitative PCR was established. The specificity, sensitivity and stability of the assay were assessed; specificity was high and there were no cross-reactivity with healthy larvae or other bee viruses. The assay was applied to detect CSBV in 37 clinical samples and its efficiency was compared with clinical diagnosis, electron microscopy observation, and conventional RT-PCR. The TaqMan MGB-based probe fluorescence real-time quantitative PCR for CSBV was more sensitive than other methods tested. This assay was a reliable, fast, and sensitive method that was used successfully to detect CSBV in clinical samples. The technology can provide a useful tool for rapid detection of CSBV. This study has established a useful protocol for CSBV testing, epidemiological investigation, and development of animal models.
PMCID: PMC3568131  PMID: 23408931
12.  Fast-tracking development of homozygous transgenic cereal lines using a simple and highly flexible real-time PCR assay 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:71.
A crucial step in the evaluation of newly produced transgenic plants is the selection of homozygous plants. Here we describe an efficient and highly flexible real-time PCR-based method for the development of homozygous lines in plant models with complex (multiple) genomes and/or relatively long generation times (>3 months) using direct copy number determinations.
An existing DNA extraction method was converted into a high-throughput plant leaf DNA extraction procedure yielding DNA suitable for real-time PCR analyses. Highly specific and efficient primer pairs were developed for a bread wheat reference gene (Epsilon Cyclase) and for standard sequence elements in the gene cassette routinely used for cereal transformations (an intron bridge and the Nopaline Synthase terminator). The real-time PCR assay reliably distinguished wheat plants with a single copy of the transgene from individuals with multiple copies or those lacking the transgene. To obtain homozygous lines carrying a unique insertion event as efficiently as possible, T0 plants (plants raised from transformed callus) with a single copy of the transgene were selected and their progeny screened for homozygous plants. Finally, the assay was adapted to work on rice.
The ability to quickly, easily and accurately quantify the construct copy numbers, as provided by the real-time PCR assay, greatly improved the efficiency and reliability of the selection of homozygous transgenic plants in our case study. We were able to select homozygous plants in early generations, avoiding time-consuming methods such as large scale analysis of segregation patterns of descendants and/or Southern blotting. Additionally, the ability to specifically develop homozygous lines carrying a unique insertion event could be important in avoiding gene silencing due to co-suppression, and if needed assist in the selection of lines suitable for future deregulation. The same primer pairs can be used to quantify many different wheat transgenic events because the construct-specific primer pairs are targeted to standard sequence elements of the cereal gene cassettes, making the method widely applicable in wheat GM research. Moreover, because all procedures described here are standardized, the method may easily be adapted to vectors lacking the target regions used here and/or to other plant models.
PMCID: PMC3668147  PMID: 23627847
Real-time PCR; qPCR; Cereal; Wheat; Transgene; Copy number; Homozygous line
13.  Rapid Detection of Ceratocystis platani Inoculum by Quantitative Real-Time PCR Assay 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(17):5394-5404.
Ceratocystis platani is the causal agent of canker stain of plane trees, a lethal disease able to kill mature trees in one or two successive growing seasons. The pathogen is a quarantine organism and has a negative impact on anthropogenic and natural populations of plane trees. Contaminated sawdust produced during pruning and sanitation fellings can contribute to disease spread. The goal of this study was to design a rapid, real-time quantitative PCR assay to detect a C. platani airborne inoculum. Airborne inoculum traps (AITs) were placed in an urban setting in the city of Florence, Italy, where the disease was present. Primers and TaqMan minor groove binder (MGB) probes were designed to target cerato-platanin (CP) and internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) genes. The detection limits of the assay were 0.05 pg/μl and 2 fg/μl of fungal DNA for CP and ITS, respectively. Pathogen detection directly from AITs demonstrated specificity and high sensitivity for C. platani, detecting DNA concentrations as low as 1.2 × 10−2 to 1.4 × 10−2 pg/μl, corresponding to ∼10 conidia per ml. Airborne inoculum traps were able to detect the C. platani inoculum within 200 m of the closest symptomatic infected plane tree. The combination of airborne trapping and real-time quantitative PCR assay provides a rapid and sensitive method for the specific detection of a C. platani inoculum. This technique may be used to identify the period of highest risk of pathogen spread in a site, thus helping disease management.
PMCID: PMC3753960  PMID: 23811499
14.  Use of Internally Controlled Real-Time Genome Amplification for Detection of Variola Virus and Other Orthopoxviruses Infecting Humans▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;44(12):4464-4470.
Smallpox, once a devastating disease caused by Variola virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus, was eradicated in 1980. However, the importance of variola virus infections has been stressed widely in the last few years, particularly following recent social events in the world. Today, variola virus is considered to be one of the most significant agents with potential use as a biological weapon. In this study we developed an internally controlled real-time PCR assay for rapid detection and simultaneous differentiation of variola virus from other orthopoxviruses. The assay is based on TaqMan 3′-minor groove binder (MGB) chemistry and uses generic primers, designed in highly conserved genomic regions of the crmB gene, and three TaqMan MGB probes designed to identify orthopoxviruses, variola virus, and an internal control. The results obtained suggest that the assay is rapid, sensitive, specific, and suitable for the generic detection of orthopoxviruses and the identification of variola virus and avoids false-negative results in a single reaction tube.
PMCID: PMC1698395  PMID: 17065259
15.  Development and Evaluation of a Multitarget Real-Time Taqman Reverse Transcription-PCR Assay for Detection of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Associated Coronavirus and Surveillance for an Apparently Related Coronavirus Found in Masked Palm Civets 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(5):2041-2046.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is the etiological agent of SARS. It is believed that SARS-CoV originates from wild animals. We have developed a multitarget real-time Taqman reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assay for the quantitative detection of SARS-CoV. The sequences of the Taqman probes with a minor groove binder and the corresponding primers were based on the sequences of the N gene, open reading frame (ORF) 3, and ORF 8. The overall linear range of this assay was from at least 101 to 106 copies per reaction, and the detection limit could reach less than 10 copies per reaction. The quantification results for SARS-CoV from cell culture correlated well with those of the RT-PCR by using any two of the three sets of primer and probe used in this assay. However, the results of quantification of SARS-CoV obtained by using a few available throat swab specimens from SARS patients and the N gene as the target were almost 10 times higher than those obtained by using ORF 3 and ORF 8. Using this assay, we also detected an apparently SARS-CoV-related coronavirus in the throat swab specimens from masked palm civets in the west part of Hubei Province, People's Republic of China.
PMCID: PMC1153763  PMID: 15872219
16.  Evaluation of Three Influenza A and B Real-Time Reverse Transcription-PCR Assays and a New 2009 H1N1 Assay for Detection of Influenza Viruses ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(11):3870-3875.
The performance characteristics of three real-time influenza A/B virus reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assays and two real-time 2009 H1N1 RT-PCR assays were evaluated using previously characterized clinical specimens. A total of 150 respiratory specimens from children (30 influenza A/H1 virus-, 30 influenza A/H3 virus-, 30 2009 H1N1-, and 30 influenza B virus-positive specimens and 30 influenza virus-negative specimens) were tested with the CDC influenza A/B PCR (CDC), ProFlu+ multiplex real-time RT-PCR assay (ProFlu+), and MGB Alert Influenza A/B & RSV RUO (MGB) assays. A second set of 157 respiratory specimens (100 2009 H1N1-, 22 seasonal influenza A/H1-, and 15 seasonal influenza A/H3-positive specimens and 20 influenza-negative specimens) were tested with a new laboratory-developed 2009 H1N1 RT-PCR and the CDC 2009 H1N1 assay. The overall sensitivities of the CDC, ProFlu+, and MGB assays for detection of influenza A and B viruses were 100%, 98.3%, and 94%, respectively. The ProFlu+ assay failed to detect one influenza A/H1 virus-positive specimen and yielded one unresolved result with another influenza A/H1 virus-positive specimen. The MGB assay detected 84/87 (96.5%) of influenza A and B viruses and 26/30 (86.6%) of 2009 H1N1 viruses. The new laboratory-developed 2009 H1N1 RT-PCR assay detected 100/100 (100%) 2009 H1N1 virus-positive specimens, while the CDC SW Inf A and SW H1 PCR assays failed to detect one and three low-positive 2009 H1N1-positive specimens, respectively. The CDC influenza A/B virus assay and the newly developed 2009 H1N1 RT-PCR assay with an internal control can be set up in two separate reactions in the same assay for routine clinical testing to detect influenza A and B viruses and to specifically identify the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.
PMCID: PMC3020824  PMID: 20844230
17.  Use of TaqMan 5′ Nuclease Real-Time PCR for Quantitative Detection of Mycoplasma genitalium DNA in Males with and without Urethritis Who Were Attendees at a Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(2):683-692.
Mycoplasma genitalium is a cause of nongonococcal urethritis, particularly in patients not infected with Chlamydia trachomatis. A quantitative 5′ nuclease assay (TaqMan PCR) was developed and validated. The assay detected a fragment of the MgPa adhesin gene by use of a TaqMan MGB (minor groove binder) probe and included an internal processing control to detect PCR inhibition. Urethral swab specimens and first-void urine samples from M. genitalium-positive men were examined, and the M. genitalium DNA load was correlated to symptoms and signs. The assay consistently detected <5 genome copies without cross-reactions with other mycoplasmas. Urine and urethral swab specimens from men with urethritis had higher M. genitalium DNA loads than specimens from men without urethritis. However, a very broad overlap of DNA loads between patients with and without urethritis was observed. Urethral swab specimens from patients with urethral discharge had a significantly higher DNA load than specimens from patients without discharge. This correlation was not found in first-void urine specimens.
PMCID: PMC344445  PMID: 14766837
18.  A Mouse M-opsin Monochromat: Retinal Cone Photoreceptors have increased M-Opsin Expression when S-Opsin is knocked out 
Vision research  2011;51(4):447-458.
Mouse cone photoreceptors, like those of most mammals including humans, express cone opsins derived from two ancient families: S-opsin (gene Opn1sw) and M-opsin (gene Opn1mw). Most C57BI/6 mouse cones co-express both opsins, but in dorso-ventral counter-gradients, with M-opsin dominant in the dorsal retina and S-opsin in the ventral retina, and S-opsin 4-fold greater overall. We created a mouse lacking S-opsin expression by the insertion of a Neomycin selection cassette between the third and fourth exons of the Opn1sw gene (Opn1swNeo/Neo). In strong contrast to published results characterizing mice lacking rhodopsin (Rho−/−) in which retinal rods undergo cell death by 2.5 months, cones of the Opn1swNeo/Neo mouse remain viable for at least 1.5 yrs, even though many ventral cones do not form outer segments, as revealed by high resolution immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. Suction pipette recordings revealed that functional ventral cones of the Opn1swNeo/Neo mouse not only phototransduce light with normal kinetics, but are more sensitive to mid-wavelength light than their WT counterparts. Quantitative Western blot analysis revealed the basis of the heightened sensitivity to be increased M-opsin expression. Because S- and M-opsin transcripts must compete for the same translational machinery in cones where they are co-expressed, elimination of S-opsin mRNA in ventral Opn1swNeo/Neo cones likely increases M-opsin expression by relieving competition for translational machinery, revealing an important consequence of eliminating a dominant transcript. Overall, our results reveal a striking capacity for cone photoreceptors to function with much reduced opsin expression, and to remain viable in the absence of an outer segment.
PMCID: PMC3072795  PMID: 21219924
opsin; cone survival; phototransduction; color vision
19.  Establishment of a minor groove binder-probe based quantitative real time PCR to detect Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and differentiation of Borrelia spielmanii by ospA-specific conventional PCR 
Parasites & Vectors  2010;3:69.
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (sl), the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis, is transmitted by ticks of the genus Ixodes as vector. For identification of Borrelia infections in ticks a TaqMan™ minor groove binder (MGB) probe-based quantitative real time PCR (qPCR) was established targeting the 5S-23S intergenic spacer. Extension to a duplex qPCR included an Ixodes spp. positive control to verify successful DNA isolation. Besides qPCR, an ospA-specific conventional PCR for species-specific identification of B. spielmanii was established. Afterwards 1000 I. ricinus flagged in the city of Hanover, Germany, were investigated for B. burgdorferi sl infections followed by species identification. Furthermore, I. hexagonus ticks were investigated to proof applicability of the PCRs.
Quantitative real time PCR (qPCR) identifying B. burgdorferi sl in ticks was able to detect 1-10 copies per reaction. B. spielmanii ospA-specific conventional PCR was also highly specific and showed no cross reactions with the other tested Borrelia species. From 1000 hanoveranian ticks 24.3% were positive compared to only 7.4% positives by dark-field microscopy. Related to tick stage 1.7% larvae, 18.1% nymphs, and 34.6% adults were positive. The most frequent species was B. garinii, followed by B. afzelii, B. spielmanii, B. valaisiana and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (ss). 70.6% of I. ricinus were mono-infected, whereas 28.0% and 1.4% were infected with two and three Borrelia species, respectively. From 232 I. hexagonus collected from hedgehogs in different sites of Germany, qPCR detected 5.7% to be infected with B. burgdorferi sl, which were identified as B. afzelii, B. garinii and B. spielmanii.
The evaluated qPCR to detect B. burgdorferi sl in Ixodes spp. is highly specific and sensitive. As a duplex qPCR including detection of Ixodes spp. DNA it is the first DNA based technique incorporating a control for successful DNA isolation from the vector tick. Establishment of a B. spielmanii specific conventional PCR filled the gap in PCR identification of principal European Borrelia genospecies. Practical application showed that all European pathogenic Borrelia spp. were present in I. ricinus flagged in recreational areas of the city of Hanover and confirmed I. hexagonus as reservoir for pathogenic Borrelia spp.
PMCID: PMC2928209  PMID: 20698952
20.  A sensitive one-step real-time PCR for detection of avian influenza viruses using a MGB probe and an internal positive control 
Avian influenza viruses (AIVs) are endemic in wild birds and their introduction and conversion to highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in domestic poultry is a cause of serious economic losses as well as a risk for potential transmission to humans. The ability to rapidly recognise AIVs in biological specimens is critical for limiting further spread of the disease in poultry. The advent of molecular methods such as real time polymerase chain reaction has allowed improvement of detection methods currently used in laboratories, although not all of these methods include an Internal Positive Control (IPC) to monitor for false negative results.
Therefore we developed a one-step reverse transcription real time PCR (RRT-PCR) with a Minor Groove Binder (MGB) probe for the detection of different subtypes of AIVs. This technique also includes an IPC.
RRT-PCR was developed using an improved TaqMan technology with a MGB probe to detect AI from reference viruses. Primers and probe were designed based on the matrix gene sequences from most animal and human A influenza virus subtypes. The specificity of RRT-PCR was assessed by detecting influenza A virus isolates belonging to subtypes from H1–H13 isolated in avian, human, swine and equine hosts. The analytical sensitivity of the RRT-PCR assay was determined using serial dilutions of in vitro transcribed matrix gene RNA. The use of a rodent RNA as an IPC in order not to reduce the efficiency of the assay was adopted.
The RRT-PCR assay is capable to detect all tested influenza A viruses. The detection limit of the assay was shown to be between 5 and 50 RNA copies per reaction and the standard curve demonstrated a linear range from 5 to 5 × 108 copies as well as excellent reproducibility. The analytical sensitivity of the assay is 10–100 times higher than conventional RT-PCR.
The high sensitivity, rapidity, reproducibility and specificity of the AIV RRT-PCR with the use of IPC to monitor for false negative results can make this method suitable for diagnosis and for the evaluation of viral load in field specimens.
PMCID: PMC1524785  PMID: 16725022
21.  Translationally coupled initiation of protein synthesis in Bacillus subtilis. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1985;13(3):893-909.
The neomycin phosphotransferase gene (neo) from Transposon Tn5 is active in Gram-negative bacteria but silent in B. subtilis since it lacks an appropriate ribosome binding site for Gram-positive bacteria. Neo translation could be reactivated by coupling its initiation to the translational termination of the highly expressed beta-lactamase gene (penP) from B. licheniformis. This initiation occurred at the authentic neo start codon. Its efficiency was independent of the nucleotide sequence 5 to the neo gene, but strongly affected by the distance between the termination and initiation codon. It was the highest if both codons overlapped in the sequence ATGA. In B. licheniformis, a translationally coupled neo gene was inducible expressed as the penP gene demonstrating the potential of the technique to monitor the activity of expression units for which no direct assays exists.
PMCID: PMC341041  PMID: 3923434
22.  A novel real-time PCR assay for quantitative analysis of methylated alleles (QAMA): analysis of the retinoblastoma locus 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(16):e125.
Altered methylation patterns have been found to play a role in developmental disorders, cancer and aging. Increasingly, changes in DNA methylation are used as molecular markers of disease. Therefore, there is a need for reliable and easy to use techniques to detect and measure DNA methylation in research and routine diagnostics. We have established a novel quantitative analysis of methylated alleles (QAMA) which is essentially a major improvement over a previous method based on real-time PCR (MethyLight). This method is based on real-time PCR on bisulfite-treated DNA. A significant advantage over conventional MethyLight is gained by the use of TaqMan probes based on minor groove binder (MGB) technology. Their improved sequence specificity facilitates relative quantification of methylated and unmethylated alleles that are simultaneously amplified in single tube. This improvement allows precise measurement of the ratio of methylated versus unmethylated alleles and cuts down potential sources of inter-assay variation. Therefore, fewer control assays are required. We have used this novel technical approach to identify hypermethylation of the CpG island located in the promoter region of the retinoblastoma (RB1) gene and found that QAMA facilitates reliable and fast measurement of the relative quantity of methylated alleles and improves handling of diagnostic methylation analysis. Moreover, the simplified reaction setup and robustness inherent to the single tube assay facilitates high-throughput methylation analysis. Because the high sequence specificity inherent to the MGB technology is widely used to discriminate single nucleotide polymorphisms, QAMA potentially can be used to discriminate the methylation status of single CpG dinucleotides.
PMCID: PMC519124  PMID: 15353561
23.  Determination of L1 retrotransposition kinetics in cultured cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(6):1418-1423.
L1 retrotransposons are autonomous retroelements that are active in the human and mouse genomes. Previously, we developed a cultured cell assay that uses a neomycin phosphotransferase (neo) retrotransposition cassette to determine relative retrotransposition frequencies among various L1 elements. Here, we describe a new retrotransposition assay that uses an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) retrotransposition cassette to determine retrotransposition kinetics in cultured cells. We show that retrotransposition is not detected in cultured cells during the first 48 h post-transfection, but then proceeds at a continuous high rate for at least 16 days. We also determine the relative retrotransposition rates of two similar human L1 retrotransposons, L1RP and L1.3. L1RP retrotransposed in the EGFP assay at a rate of ~0.5% of transfected cells/day, ~3-fold higher than the rate measured for L1.3. We conclude that the new assay detects near real time retrotransposition in a single cell and is sufficiently sensitive to differentiate retrotransposition rates among similar L1 elements. The EGFP assay exhibits improved speed and accuracy compared to the previous assay when used to determine relative retrotransposition frequencies. Furthermore, the EGFP cassette has an expanded range of experimental applications.
PMCID: PMC111040  PMID: 10684937
24.  Analysis of Epstein-Barr virus reservoirs in paired blood and breast cancer primary biopsy specimens by real time PCR 
Breast Cancer Research  2006;8(6):R70.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is present in over 90% of the world's population. This infection is considered benign, even though in limited cases EBV is associated with infectious and neoplastic conditions. Over the past decade, the EBV association with breast cancer has been constantly debated. Adding to this clinical and biological uncertainty, different techniques gave contradictory results for the presence of EBV in breast carcinoma specimens. In this study, minor groove binding (MGB)-TaqMan real time PCR was used to detect the presence of EBV DNA in both peripheral blood and tumor samples of selected patients.
Peripheral blood and breast carcinoma specimens from 24 patients were collected. DNA was extracted and then amplified by MGB-TaqMan real time PCR.
Of 24 breast tumor specimens, 11 (46%) were positive for EBV DNA. Of these 11 breast tumor specimens, 7 (64%) were also positive for EBV DNA in the peripheral blood, while 4 (36%) were positive for EBV DNA in the tumor, but negative in the blood.
EBV was found at extremely low levels, with a mean of 0.00004 EBV genomes per cell (range 0.00014 to 0.00001 EBV genomes per cell). Furthermore, our finding of the presence of EBV in the tumor specimens coupled to the absence of detection of EBV genomic DNA in the peripheral blood is consistent with the epithelial nature of the virus. Because of the low levels of viral DNA in tumor tissue, further studies are needed to assess the biological input of EBV in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC1797024  PMID: 17163997
25.  Sensitive Assay for Quantification of Hepatitis B Virus Mutants by Use of a Minor Groove Binder Probe and Peptide Nucleic Acids ▿ †  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(12):4487-4494.
Lamivudine is the first nucleoside analogue that was shown to have a potent effect on hepatitis B virus (HBV). However, the emergence of mutants resistant or cross-resistant to nucleoside/nucleotide analogues remains a serious problem. Several assays for the detection and quantification of antiviral-resistant mutants have been reported, but it has been difficult to measure the amounts of mutants accurately, especially when the target strain is a minor component of the mixed population. It has been shown that accurate measurement of a minor strain is difficult as long as a matching reaction with a single probe is included in the assay. We developed a new method for the quantification of lamivudine-resistant strains in a mixed-virus population by real-time PCR using minor groove binder probes and peptide nucleic acids, and we achieved a wide and measurable range, from 3 to 10 log10 copies/ml, and high sensitivity, with a discriminative limit of 0.01% of the predominant strain. The clinical significance of measuring substitutions not only of M204 but also of L180 residues of HBV polymerase was demonstrated by this method. This assay increases the versatility of a sensitive method for the quantification of a single-nucleotide mutation in a heterogeneous population.
PMCID: PMC3008448  PMID: 20926703

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