A simple approach to the generation of heterologous competitive internal controls for real-time PCR assays on the LightCycler

J Clin Virol. 2002 Dec;25 Suppl 3:S47-53. doi: 10.1016/s1386-6532(02)00192-0.


Background: The real-time PCR technology allows convenient detection and quantification of virus derived DNA. This approach is used in many PCR based assays in clinical laboratories. Detection and quantification of virus derived DNA is usually performed against external controls or external standards. Thus, adequacy within a clinical sample is not monitored for. This can be achieved using internal controls that are co-amplified with the specific target within the same reaction vessel.

Objectives: We describe a convenient way to prepare heterologous internal controls as competitors for real-time PCR based assays.

Study design: The internal controls were devised as competitors in real-time PCR, e.g. LightCycler-PCR. The bacterial neomycin phosphotransferase gene (neo) was used as source for heterologous DNA. Within the neo gene a box was chosen containing sequences for four differently spaced forward primers, one reverse primer, and a pair of neo specific hybridization probes. Pairs of primers were constructed to compose of virus-specific primer sequences and neo box specific primer sequences. Using those composite primers in conventional preparative PCR four types of internal controls were amplified from the neo box and subsequently cloned.

Results: A panel of the four differently sized internal controls was generated and tested by LightCycler PCR using their virus-specific primers. All four different PCR products were detected with the single pair of neo specific FRET-hybridization probes.

Conclusion: The presented approach to generate competitive internal controls for use in LightCycler PCR assays proved convenient und rapid. The obtained internal controls match most PCR product sizes used in clinical routine molecular assays and will assist to discriminate true from false negative results.

MeSH terms

  • Binding, Competitive / genetics
  • DNA Probes
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / standards
  • Quality Control
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • DNA Probes