DNA polymerase fidelity and the polymerase chain reaction

PCR Methods Appl. 1991 Aug;1(1):17-24. doi: 10.1101/gr.1.1.17.


High-fidelity DNA synthesis conditions are those that exploit the inherent ability of polymerases to discriminate against errors. This review has described several experimental approaches for controlling the fidelity of enzymatic DNA amplification. One of the most important parameters to consider is the choice of which polymerase to use in PCR. As demonstrated by the data in Tables 2 and 3, high-fidelity DNA amplification will be best achieved by using a polymerase with an active 3'-->5' proofreading exonuclease activity (Fig. 1E). For those enzymes that are proofreading-deficient, the in vitro reaction conditions can significantly influence the polymerase error rates. To maximize fidelity at the dNTP insertion step (Fig. 1A,B), any type of deoxynucleoside triphosphate pool imbalance should be avoided. Similarly, stabilization of errors by polymerase extension from mispaired or misaligned primer-termini (Fig. 1D) can be minimized by reactions using short synthesis times, low dNTP concentrations, and low enzyme concentrations. Additional improvements in fidelity can be made by further manipulating the reaction conditions. To perform high-fidelity PCR with Taq polymerase, reactions should contain a low MgCl2 concentration, not in large excess over the total concentration of dNTP substrates, and be buffered to approximately pH 6 (70 degrees C) using Bis-Tris Propane or PIPES (Table 2). These buffers have a pKa between pH 6 and pH 7 and a small temperature coefficient (delta pKa/degree C), allowing the pH to be maintained stably throughout the PCR cycle. For amplifications in which fidelity is the critical issue, one should avoid the concept that conditions generating more DNA product are the better conditions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase*
  • Gene Amplification
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Taq Polymerase


  • DNA
  • Taq Polymerase
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase