Lack of correlation between reaction speed and analytical sensitivity in isothermal amplification reveals the value of digital methods for optimization: validation using digital real-time RT-LAMP

Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Jan 29;44(2):e10. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv877. Epub 2015 Sep 10.


In this paper, we asked if it is possible to identify the best primers and reaction conditions based on improvements in reaction speed when optimizing isothermal reactions. We used digital single-molecule, real-time analyses of both speed and efficiency of isothermal amplification reactions, which revealed that improvements in the speed of isothermal amplification reactions did not always correlate with improvements in digital efficiency (the fraction of molecules that amplify) or with analytical sensitivity. However, we observed that the speeds of amplification for single-molecule (in a digital device) and multi-molecule (e.g. in a PCR well plate) formats always correlated for the same conditions. Also, digital efficiency correlated with the analytical sensitivity of the same reaction performed in a multi-molecule format. Our finding was supported experimentally with examples of primer design, the use or exclusion of loop primers in different combinations, and the use of different enzyme mixtures in one-step reverse-transcription loop-mediated amplification (RT-LAMP). Our results show that measuring the digital efficiency of amplification of single-template molecules allows quick, reliable comparisons of the analytical sensitivity of reactions under any two tested conditions, independent of the speeds of the isothermal amplification reactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions / genetics
  • DNA Primers / chemical synthesis
  • DNA Primers / chemistry*
  • Hepacivirus / chemistry
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Viral