Molecular Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 398 Views Nov 5, 2023

The precise and rapid detection of fungi is important in various fields, including clinics, industry, and agriculture. While sequencing universal DNA barcodes remains the standard method for species identification and phylogenetic analysis, a significant bottleneck has been the labor-intensive and time-consuming sample preparation for genomic DNA extraction. To address this, we developed a direct PCR method that bypasses the DNA extraction steps, facilitating efficient target DNA amplification. Instead of extracting genomic DNA from fungal mycelium, our method involves adding a small quantity of mycelium directly to the PCR mixture, followed by a heat shock and vortexing. We found these simple adjustments to be sufficient to lyse many filamentous fungal cells, enabling target DNA amplification. This paper presents a comprehensive protocol for executing direct PCR in filamentous fungi. Beyond species identification, this direct PCR approach holds promise for diverse applications, such as diagnostic PCR for genotype screening without fungal DNA extraction. We anticipate that direct PCR will expedite research on filamentous fungi and diagnosis of fungal diseases.

Key features

• Eliminates the time-consuming genomic DNA extraction step for PCR, enhancing the speed of molecular identification.

• Adds a small quantity of mycelium directly into the PCR mix.

• Emphasizes the crucial role of heat shock and vortexing in achieving efficient target DNA amplification.

• Accelerates the molecular identification of filamentous fungi and rapid diagnosis of fungal diseases.

Graphical overview

Direct PCR using filamentous fungal biomass

0 Q&A 344 Views Jun 20, 2023

There are more than 40 types of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), most of which are caused by abnormal expansion of short tandem repeats at various gene loci. These phenotypically similar disorders require molecular testing at multiple loci by fluorescent PCR and capillary electrophoresis to identify the causative repeat expansion. We describe a simple strategy to screen for the more common SCA1, SCA2, and SCA3 by rapidly detecting the abnormal CAG repeat expansion at the ATXN1, ATXN2, and ATXN3 loci using melting curve analysis of triplet-primed PCR products. Each of the three separate assays employs a plasmid DNA carrying a known repeat size to generate a threshold melt peak temperature, which effectively distinguishes expansion-positive samples from those without a repeat expansion. Samples that are screened positive based on their melt peak profiles are subjected to capillary electrophoresis for repeat sizing and genotype confirmation. These screening assays are robust and provide accurate detection of the repeat expansion while eliminating the need for fluorescent PCR and capillary electrophoresis for every sample.

0 Q&A 1323 Views Apr 20, 2022

The administration of antiretroviral therapy (ART) leads to a rapid reduction in plasma viral load in HIV-1 seropositive subjects. However, when ART is suspended, the virus rebounds due to the presence of a latent viral reservoir. Several techniques have been developed to characterize this latent viral reservoir. Of the various assay formats available presently, the Tat/Rev induced limiting dilution assay (TILDA) offers the most robust and technically simple assay strategy. The TILDA formats reported thus far are limited by being selective to one or a few HIV-1 genetic subtypes, thus, restricting them from a broader level application. The novel TILDA, labelled as U-TILDA ('U' for universal), can detect all the major genetic subtypes of HIV-1 unbiasedly, and with comparable sensitivity of detection. U-TILDA is well suited to characterize the latent reservoirs of HIV-1 and aid in the formulation of cure strategies.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1094 Views Apr 5, 2022

Malaria is the most important parasitic disease worldwide, and accurate diagnosis and treatment without delay are essential for reducing morbidity and mortality, especially in P. falciparum malaria. Real-time PCR is highly sensitive and highly specific, therefore an excellent diagnostic tool for laboratory detection and species-specific diagnosis of malaria, especially in non-endemic regions where experience in microscopic malaria diagnostics is limited. In contrast to many other real-time PCR protocols, our new fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based real-time PCR (FRET-qPCR) allows the quantitative and species-specific detection of all human Plasmodium spp. in one run. Species identification is based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the MalFL probe, detectable by melting curve analysis. A significant advantage of our FRET-qPCR is the short turn-around time of less than two hours, including DNA extraction, which qualifies it for routine diagnostics. Rapid and reliable species-specific malaria diagnosis is important, because treatment is species-dependent. Apart from first-line diagnosis, the quantitative results of our new FRET-qPCR can be helpful in therapy control, to detect early treatment failure.

Graphic abstract:

0 Q&A 1833 Views Sep 5, 2021

Site-specific transcription arrest is the basis of emerging technologies that assess nascent RNA structure and function. Cotranscriptionally folded RNA can be displayed from an arrested RNA polymerase (RNAP) for biochemical manipulations by halting transcription elongation at a defined DNA template position. Most transcription “roadblocking” approaches halt transcription elongation using a protein blockade that is non-covalently attached to the template DNA. I previously developed a strategy for halting Escherichia coli RNAP at a chemical lesion, which expands the repertoire of transcription roadblocking technologies and enables sophisticated manipulations of the arrested elongation complexes. To facilitate this chemical transcription roadblocking approach, I developed a sequence-independent method for preparing internally modified dsDNA using PCR and translesion synthesis. Here, I present a detailed protocol for the preparation and characterization of internally modified dsDNA templates for chemical transcription roadblocking experiments.

Graphic abstract:

Precise transcription roadblocking using functionalized DNA lesions

1 Q&A 3862 Views Jul 5, 2021

Transgenic plants are produced both to investigate gene function and to confer desirable traits into crops. Transgene copy number is known to influence expression levels, and consequently, phenotypes. Similarly, knowledge of transgene zygosity is desirable for making quantitative assessments of phenotype and tracking the inheritance of transgenes in progeny generations. Since the first transgenic plants were produced, several methods for determining copy number have been applied, including Southern blotting, quantitative real-time PCR, and more recently, sequencing methods; however, each method has specific disadvantages, compromising throughput, accuracy, or expense. Digital PCR (dPCR) divides reactions into partitions, converting the exponential, analogue nature of PCR into a linear, digital signal that allows the frequency of occurrence of specific sequences to be accurately estimated. Confidence increases with the number of partitions; therefore, the availability of emulsion technologies that enable reactions to be divided into tens of thousands of nanodroplets allows accurate determination of copy number in what has become known as digital droplet PCR (ddPCR). ddPCR offers similar benefits of low costs and scalability as other PCR techniques but with superior accuracy and reliability.

Graphic abstract:

Digital PCR (dPCR) divides reactions into partitions, converting the exponential, analogue nature of PCR into a linear, digital signal that allows the frequency of transgene copy number to be accurately assessed.

1 Q&A 4180 Views Dec 20, 2020
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2; initially named 2019-nCoV) is responsible for the recent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current standard method for diagnosis from patient samples. As PCR assays are prone to sequence mismatches due to mutations in the viral genome, it is important to verify the genomic variability at primer/probe binding regions periodically. This step-by-step protocol describes a bioinformatics approach for an extensive evaluation of the sequence variability within the primer/probe target regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. The protocol can be applied to any molecular diagnostic assay of choice using freely available software programs and the ready-to-use multiple sequence alignment (MSA) file provided.

Graphic abstract:

Overview of the sequence tracing protocol. The figure was created using the Library of Science and Medical Illustrations from somersault18:24 licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license (

Video abstract:

0 Q&A 3107 Views Aug 20, 2019
For natural transformation to occur, bacterial cells must first develop a programmed physiological state called competence. Competence in Bacillus subtilis, which occurs only in a fraction of cells, is a transient stress response that allows cells to take up DNA from the environment. During natural chromosomal transformation, the internalized linear single-stranded (ss) DNA recombines with the identical (homologous) or partially identical (homeologous) sequence of the resident duplex. The length of the integrated DNA, which can be measured, depends on the percentage of sequence divergence between the donor (internalized) and the recipient (chromosomal) DNAs.

The following protocol describes how to induce the development of competence in B. subtilis cells, how to transform them with donor DNAs representing different percentages of sequence divergence compared with the recipient chromosomal DNA, how to calculate the chromosomal transformation efficiency for each of them, and how to amplify the chromosomal DNA from the transformants in order to measure the length in base pairs (bp) of the integrated donor DNA.
0 Q&A 5064 Views Aug 5, 2019
Advanced free angle photolithography (FAPL) is presented for making 3D supercritical angle fluorescence (SAF) microstructures and transfer them on to polymeric chips using injection molding technique for low-cost microfluidic devices embedded with optical sensing structures. A solid phase polymerase chain reaction (SP-PCR) is used as model technique, which allows rapid and sensitive detection of pathogen DNA on-chip. This article presents the detailed fabrication of SAF structure and SP-PCR application on SAF structure for pathogen detection. This protocol of developing SAF structures using the FAPL process, increases the number of SAF per mm2. FAPL was performed via a motorized stage to control the angle of incidence and to achieve the desired bucket-shapes (dimensions of 50 μm to 150 μm with a slope) required for the 3D optical sensing. Due to the unique properties of SAF structures, it enhances the fluorescent signal by 46 times. Increasing the number of SAF structures and reducing the size resulted in reduction of sample volume required per test along with improvement in the limit of detection (LOD) due to a smaller size. This article also presents the experimental details of SP-PCR using DNA oligos bound to the SAF structures for on-chip pathogen detection and a comparison between different sizes of SAF structures. The direct on-chip SP-PCR paves the path for the application of this technique in point-of-care devices.
0 Q&A 6410 Views Apr 5, 2019
Persistence of the human hepatitis B virus (HBV) requires the maintenance of covalently closed circular (ccc)DNA, the episomal genome reservoir in nuclei of infected hepatocytes. cccDNA elimination is a major aim in future curative therapies currently under development. In cell culture based in vitro studies, both hybridization- and amplification-based assays are currently used for cccDNA quantification. Southern blot, the current gold standard, is time-consuming and not practical for a large number of samples. PCR-based methods show limited specificity when excessive HBV replicative intermediates are present. We have recently developed a real-time quantitative PCR protocol, in which total cellular DNA plus all forms of viral DNA are extracted by silica column. Subsequent incubation with T5 exonuclease efficiently removes cellular DNA and all non-cccDNA forms of viral DNA while cccDNA remains intact and can reliably be quantified by PCR. This method has been used for measuring kinetics of cccDNA accumulation in several in vitro infection models and the effect of antivirals on cccDNA. It allowed detection of cccDNA in non-human cells (primary macaque and swine hepatocytes, etc.) reconstituted with the HBV receptor, human sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP). Here we present a detailed protocol of this method, including a work flowchart, schematic diagram and illustrations on how to calculate “cccDNA copies per (infected) cell”.

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