Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

DNA polymerase preference determines PCR priming efficiency

Wenjing Pan1, Miranda Byrne-Steele2, Chunlin Wang3, Stanley Lu4, Scott Clemmons4, Robert J Zahorchak2 and Jian Han2*

Author Affiliations

1 Biotechnology Science and Engineering Program, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899, USA

2 HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, AL 35806, USA

3 Stanford Genome Technology Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA

4 Diatherix Laboratories, Huntsville, AL 35806, USA

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BMC Biotechnology 2014, 14:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-14-10

Published: 30 January 2014



Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of the most important developments in modern biotechnology. However, PCR is known to introduce biases, especially during multiplex reactions. Recent studies have implicated the DNA polymerase as the primary source of bias, particularly initiation of polymerization on the template strand. In our study, amplification from a synthetic library containing a 12 nucleotide random portion was used to provide an in-depth characterization of DNA polymerase priming bias. The synthetic library was amplified with three commercially available DNA polymerases using an anchored primer with a random 3’ hexamer end. After normalization, the next generation sequencing (NGS) results of the amplified libraries were directly compared to the unamplified synthetic library.


Here, high throughput sequencing was used to systematically demonstrate and characterize DNA polymerase priming bias. We demonstrate that certain sequence motifs are preferred over others as primers where the six nucleotide sequences at the 3’ end of the primer, as well as the sequences four base pairs downstream of the priming site, may influence priming efficiencies. DNA polymerases in the same family from two different commercial vendors prefer similar motifs, while another commercially available enzyme from a different DNA polymerase family prefers different motifs. Furthermore, the preferred priming motifs are GC-rich. The DNA polymerase preference for certain sequence motifs was verified by amplification from single-primer templates. We incorporated the observed DNA polymerase preference into a primer-design program that guides the placement of the primer to an optimal location on the template.


DNA polymerase priming bias was characterized using a synthetic library amplification system and NGS. The characterization of DNA polymerase priming bias was then utilized to guide the primer-design process and demonstrate varying amplification efficiencies among three commercially available DNA polymerases. The results suggest that the interaction of the DNA polymerase with the primer:template junction during the initiation of DNA polymerization is very important in terms of overall amplification bias and has broader implications for both the primer design process and multiplex PCR.

PCR; DNA polymerase; Priming bias; Next generation sequencing; PPI; Polymerase preference index; iC-Architect