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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

A kinetic-based sigmoidal model for the polymerase chain reaction and its application to high-capacity absolute quantitative real-time PCR

Robert G Rutledge* and Don Stewart

Author Affiliations

Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, 1055 du P.E.P.S., Quebec, Quebec G1V 4C7, Canada

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BMC Biotechnology 2008, 8:47  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-8-47

Published: 8 May 2008

Abstract

Background

Based upon defining a common reference point, current real-time quantitative PCR technologies compare relative differences in amplification profile position. As such, absolute quantification requires construction of target-specific standard curves that are highly resource intensive and prone to introducing quantitative errors. Sigmoidal modeling using nonlinear regression has previously demonstrated that absolute quantification can be accomplished without standard curves; however, quantitative errors caused by distortions within the plateau phase have impeded effective implementation of this alternative approach.

Results

Recognition that amplification rate is linearly correlated to amplicon quantity led to the derivation of two sigmoid functions that allow target quantification via linear regression analysis. In addition to circumventing quantitative errors produced by plateau distortions, this approach allows the amplification efficiency within individual amplification reactions to be determined. Absolute quantification is accomplished by first converting individual fluorescence readings into target quantity expressed in fluorescence units, followed by conversion into the number of target molecules via optical calibration. Founded upon expressing reaction fluorescence in relation to amplicon DNA mass, a seminal element of this study was to implement optical calibration using lambda gDNA as a universal quantitative standard. Not only does this eliminate the need to prepare target-specific quantitative standards, it relegates establishment of quantitative scale to a single, highly defined entity. The quantitative competency of this approach was assessed by exploiting "limiting dilution assay" for absolute quantification, which provided an independent gold standard from which to verify quantitative accuracy. This yielded substantive corroborating evidence that absolute accuracies of ± 25% can be routinely achieved. Comparison with the LinReg and Miner automated qPCR data processing packages further demonstrated the superior performance of this kinetic-based methodology.

Conclusion

Called "linear regression of efficiency" or LRE, this novel kinetic approach confers the ability to conduct high-capacity absolute quantification with unprecedented quality control capabilities. The computational simplicity and recursive nature of LRE quantification also makes it amenable to software implementation, as demonstrated by a prototypic Java program that automates data analysis. This in turn introduces the prospect of conducting absolute quantification with little additional effort beyond that required for the preparation of the amplification reactions.