Incorporation of reporter-labeled nucleotides by DNA polymerases

Biotechniques. 2005 Feb;38(2):257-64. doi: 10.2144/05382RR02.


The incorporation of fluorescently labeled nucleotides into DNA by DNA polymerases has been used extensively for tagging genes and for labeling DNA. However, we lack studies comparing polymerase efficiencies for incorporating different fluorescently labeled nucleotides. We analyzed the incorporation of fluorescent deoxynucleoside triphosphates by 10 different DNA polymerases, representing a cross-section of DNA polymerases from families A, B, and reverse transcriptase. The substitution of one or more different reporter-labeled nucleotides for the cognate nucleotides was initially investigated by using an in vitro polymerase extension filter-binding assay with natural DNA as a template. Further analysis on longer DNA fragments containing one or more nucleotide analogs was performed using a newly developed extension cut assay. The results indicate that incorporation of fluorescent nucleotides is dependent on the DNA polymerase, fluorophore, linker between the nucleotide and the fluorophore, and position for attachment of the linker and the cognate nucleotide. Of the polymerases tested, Taq and Vent exo DNA polymerases were most efficient at incorporating a variety of fluorescently labeled nucleotides. This study suggests that it should be feasible to copy DNA with reactions mixtures that contain all four fluorescently labeled nucleotides allowing for high-density labeling of DNA.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / analysis*
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA Probes / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Genes, Reporter / genetics
  • Nucleotides / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*


  • DNA Probes
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Nucleotides
  • DNA
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase