The ability to multiplex PCR by probe color and melting temperature (T(m)) greatly expands the power of real-time analysis. Simple hybridization probes with only a single fluorescent dye can be used for quantification and allele typing. Different probes are labeled with dyes that have unique emission spectra. Spectral data are collected with discrete optics or dispersed onto an array for detection. Spectral overlap between dyes is corrected by using pure dye spectra to deconvolute the experimental data by matrix algebra. Since fluorescence is temperature dependent and depends on the dye, spectral overlap and color compensation constants are also temperature dependent. Single-labeled probes are easier to synthesize and purify than more complex probes with two or more dyes. In addition, the fluorescence of single-labeled probes is reversible and depends only on hybridization of the probe to the target, allowing study of the melting characteristics of the probe. Although melting curves can be obtained during PCR, data are usually acquired at near-equilibrium rates of 0.05-0.2 degrees C/s after PCR is complete. Using rapid-cycle PCR, amplification requires about 20 min followed by a 10-min melting curve, greatly reducing result turnaround time. In addition to dye color, melting temperature can be used for a second dimension of multiplexing. Multiplexing by color and T(m) creates a "virtual" two-dimensional multiplexing array without the need for an immobilized matrix of probes. Instead of physical separation along the X and Y axes, amplification products are identified by different fluorescence spectra and melting characteristics.
Copyright 2001 Elsevier Science (USA).