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Open Access Technical advance

Touchdown General Primer (GP5+/GP6+) PCR and optimized sample DNA concentration support the sensitive detection of human papillomavirus

Mark F Evans*, Christine SC Adamson, Linda Simmons-Arnold and Kumarasen Cooper

Author affiliations

Department of Pathology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Clinical Pathology 2005, 5:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-5-10

Published: 16 November 2005

Abstract

Background

The GP5+/GP6+ PCR assay is a well-established HPV detection technique. This study has examined the effects of incorporating 'hot start' and 'touchdown' steps into the protocol. In addition, dTTP was substituted with dUTP to permit contamination control measures against carry-over PCR product.

Methods

Firstly, HPV-16 was amplified from SiHa cell DNA (0.1 ng–100 ng) diluted in a background of C-33A DNA (100 ng-2 μg). Secondly, the detection of small quantities (15ag-1.5pg) of HPV recombinant plasmids (types 16, 31, 33, 45, 51, 52, and 56) diluted in C-33A DNA was investigated. Thirdly, clinical sample DNA extracts (cervical smears, formalin-fixed vaginal lesions and breast tumors) were tested for HPV. Six different PCR protocols were assessed. HPV was detected by gel electrophoresis, and by Southern and dot blot hybridization.

Results

HPV detection sensitivity was dependent on the total amount of DNA in a PCR. Touchdown protocols supported HPV-16 detection from 1 ng or 0.5 ng SiHa cell DNA in a background of 2 μg or 1 μg C-33A DNA respectively, and from 0.1 ng of SiHa cell DNA (~28 copies HPV-16) in 500 ng or 100 ng background DNA. Under standard GP5+/GP6+ annealing conditions, HPV-16 went undetected when the DNA content of a PCR was 2 μg or 1 μg, and with 500 ng C-33A DNA the sensitivity limit was 1 ng SiHa cell DNA. HPV recombinant plasmids were each detected with high (albeit varying) sensitivity by a touchdown protocol. HPV-31 was better amplified under standard annealing conditions (1.5fg in 100 ng background DNA) than by a touchdown approach (15fg detection limit). HPV-52 was not amplified by the standard protocol at the dilutions tested. Seventeen different HPV types were demonstrated in 47/65 (72%) abnormal cytology samples recorded as HPV negative by standard GP5+/GP6+ conditions. Twenty-one different HPV types were recorded in 111/114 (97%) vaginal lesions. Multiple infections were also detectable using a touchdown approach. Of 26 breast tumors, 5 (19%) tested HPV positive by the standard assay and 15/26 (58%) using a touchdown protocol.

Conclusion

Touchdown modification of the GP5+/GP6+ PCR assay enables the detection of HPV undetected under regular assay conditions. The use of standardized DNA quantities in a PCR rather than standard sample volumes containing arbitrary amounts of DNA is supported. A touchdown approach may be beneficial as an analytical test for the re-evaluation of (apparently) HPV negative abnormal cervical cytological or histological samples, and for investigating the association of HPV with disease conditions at diverse organ sites. The clinical utility of a touchdown approach for HPV detection requires further investigation as increased assay analytical sensitivity may not necessarily equate with improved clinical sensitivity or specificity.