Polymerase Chain Reaction Flow Chart

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Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method widely used in molecular biology to make several copies of a specific DNA segment. Using PCR, copies of DNA sequences are exponentially amplified to generate thousands to millions of more copies of that particular DNA segment. PCR is now a common and often indispensable technique used in medical laboratory and clinical laboratory research for a broad variety of applications including biomedical research and criminal forensics. The vast majority of PCR methods rely on thermal cycling. Thermal cycling exposes reactants to repeated cycles of heating and cooling to permit different temperature-dependent reactions – specifically, DNA melting and enzyme-driven DNA replication. PCR employs two main reagents – primers (which are short single strand DNA fragments known as oligonucleotides that are a complementary sequence to the target DNA region) and a DNA polymerase. In the first step of PCR, the two strands of the DNA double helix are physically separated at a high temperature in a process called Nucleic acid denaturation. In the second step, the temperature is lowered and the primers bind to the complementary sequences of DNA. The two DNA strands then become templates for DNA polymerase to enzymatically assemble a new DNA strand from free nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. As PCR progresses, the DNA generated is itself used as a template for replication, setting in motion a chain reaction in which the original DNA template is exponentially amplified.