Detecting antigens by quantitative immuno-PCR

Nat Protoc. 2007;2(8):1918-30. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2007.267.


The quantitative immuno-PCR (qIPCR) technology combines the advantages of flexible and robust immunoassays with the exponential signal amplification power of PCR. The qIPCR allows one to detect antigens using specific antibodies labeled with double-stranded DNA. The label is used for signal generation by quantitative PCR. Because of the efficiency of nucleic acid amplification, qIPCR typically leads to a 10- to 1,000-fold increase in sensitivity compared to an analogous enzyme-amplified immunoassay. A standard protocol of a qIPCR assay to detect human interleukin 6 (IL-6) using a sandwich immunoassay combined with real-time PCR readout is described here. The protocol includes initial immobilization of the antigen, and coupling of this antigen with antibody-DNA conjugates is then carried out by (a) the stepwise assembly of biotinylated antibody, streptavidin and biotinylated DNA, (b) the use of a biotinylated antibody and an anti-biotin-DNA conjugate or (c) the employment of an anti-IL-6 antibody-DNA conjugate. Following the assembly of signal-generating immunocomplexes, real-time PCR is used to amplify and record the signal. Depending on the coupling strategy, the qIPCR assays require 4-7 h with only about 3 h hands-on-time. The use of qIPCR assays enables the detection of rare biomarkers in complex biological samples that are poorly accessible by conventional immunoassays. Therefore, qIPCR offers novel opportunities for the biomedical analysis of, for instance, neurodegenerative diseases and viral infections as well as new tools for the development of novel pharmaceuticals.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens / analysis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*


  • Antigens
  • Interleukin-6