The copy-number of plasmids and other genetic elements can be determined by SYBR-Green-based quantitative real-time PCR

J Microbiol Methods. 2006 Jun;65(3):476-87. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2005.09.007. Epub 2005 Oct 10.


In this study, we explored whether SYBR Green-based quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) could be used to determine the copy number of a plasmid and whether the method was broadly applicable to chromosomally encoded genetic elements often occurring in multiple copies, such as rRNA genes and insertion sequences (IS). Three different template sources (whole cells, total DNA, and restriction-enzyme digested total DNA) derived from the bacterium Comamonas sp. strain JS46 were analyzed by qPCR using primer-pairs targeting plasmid pJS46 and three chromosomally encoded sequences (16S rDNA, ISCsp1, and IS1071). The difference between threshold cycle values, C(T), of amplicons targeting these elements and of an amplicon targeting the single-copy reference element mnbA (chromosomally encoded) was used to establish DeltaC(T). DeltaC(T) values were then used to derive copy number. For pJS46, qPCR analyses of whole cells and total DNA underestimated the copy number of pJS46 approximately 7-fold and approximately 2.5-fold, respectively, whereas copy number values derived from qPCR analyses of digested total DNA were comparable to those derived from Southern blot (SB) analyses. In contrast, for the chromosomally encoded elements, qPCR analyses of all three template sources gave copy number values that were virtually identical to or differed by approximately 2 from copy number values derived by SB analysis. These data indicate that qPCR can be used to estimate the copy number of various genetic elements but that the accuracy of qPCR-derived values is affected by the template source.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Comamonas / genetics
  • Comamonas / growth & development
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Gene Dosage*
  • Genes, rRNA / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism*
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Reference Standards
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Organic Chemicals
  • SYBR Green I

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AY819705
  • GENBANK/AY819706