Multiplex detection of single-nucleotide variations using molecular beacons

Genet Anal. 1999 Feb;14(5-6):151-6. doi: 10.1016/s1050-3862(98)00018-7.


We demonstrate that single-nucleotide differences in a DNA sequence can be detected in homogeneous assays using molecular beacons. In this method, the region surrounding the site of a sequence variation is amplified in a polymerase chain reaction and the identity of the variant nucleotide is determined by observing which of four differently colored molecular beacons binds to the amplification product. Each of the molecular beacons is perfectly complementary to one variant of the target sequence and each is labeled with a different fluorophore. To demonstrate the specificity of these assays, we prepared four template DNAs that only differed from one another by the identity of the nucleotide at one position. Four amplification reactions were prepared, each containing all four molecular beacons, but each initiated with only one of the four template DNAs. The results show that in each reaction a fluorogenic response was elicited from the molecular beacon that was perfectly complementary to the amplified DNA, but not from the three molecular beacons whose probe sequence mismatched the target sequence. The color of the fluorescence that appeared in each tube during the course of the amplification indicated which nucleotide was present at the site of variation. These results demonstrate the extraordinary specificity of molecular beacons. Furthermore, the results illustrate how the ability to label molecular beacons with differently colored fluorophores enables simple multiplex assays to be carried out for genetic analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / chemistry
  • Cytidine / chemistry
  • DNA Mutational Analysis / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Guanosine / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Thymidine / chemistry


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Guanosine
  • Cytidine
  • Adenosine
  • Thymidine