PCR inhibition in qPCR, dPCR and MPS—mechanisms and solutions

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DNA analysis has seen an incredible development in terms of instrumentation, assays and applications over the last years. Massively parallel sequencing (MPS) and digital PCR are now broadly applied in research and diagnostics, and quantitative PCR is used for more and more practises. All these techniques are based on in vitro DNA polymerization and fluorescence measurements. A major limitation for successful analysis is the various sample-related substances that interfere with the analysis, i.e. PCR inhibitors. PCR inhibition affects library preparation in MPS analysis and skews quantification in qPCR, and some inhibitors have been found to quench the fluorescence of the applied fluorophores. Here, we provide a deeper understanding of mechanisms of specific PCR inhibitors and how these impact specific analytical techniques. This background knowledge is necessary in order to take full advantage of modern DNA analysis techniques, specifically for analysis of samples with low amounts of template and high amounts of background material. The classical solution to handle PCR inhibition is to purify or dilute DNA extracts, which leads to DNA loss. Applying inhibitor-tolerant DNA polymerases, either single enzymes or blends, provides a more straightforward and powerful solution. This review includes mechanisms of specific PCR inhibitors as well as solutions to the inhibition problem in relation to cutting-edge DNA analysis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 12

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Analytical Chemistry


  • Blood
  • Digital PCR
  • DNA polymerase
  • Humic substances
  • Massively parallel sequencing
  • PCR inhibitors


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