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Monochrome Multiplexing in Polymerase Chain Reaction by Photobleaching of Fluorogenic Hydrolysis Probes

Schuler, Friedrich, Trotter, Martin, Zengerle, Roland, von Stetten, Felix
Analytical chemistry 2016 v.88 no.5 pp. 2590-2595
antibiotic resistance, bleaching, color, energy transfer, fluorescence, fluorescent dyes, genes, hydrolysis, immunoassays, melting point, photobleaching, polymerase chain reaction, wavelengths
Multiplexing in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique widely used to save cost and sample material and to increase sensitivity compared to distributing a sample to several singleplex reactions. One of the most common methods to detect the different amplification products is the use of fluorogenic probes that emit at different wavelengths (colors). To reduce the number of detection channels, several methods for monochrome multiplexing have been suggested. However, they pose restrictions to the amplifiable target length, the sequence, or the melting temperature. To circumvent these limitations, we suggest a novel approach that uses different fluorophores with the same emission maximum. Discrimination is achieved by their different fluorescence stability during photobleaching. Atto488 (emitting at the same wavelength as 6-carboxyfluorescein, FAM) and Atto467N (emitting at the same wavelength as cyanine 5, Cy5) were found to bleach significantly less than FAM and Cy5; i.e., the final fluorescence of Atto dyes was more than tripled compared to FAM and Cy5. We successfully applied this method by performing a 4-plex PCR targeting antibiotic resistance genes in S. aureus using only 2 color channels. Confidence of discrimination between the targets was >99.9% at high copy initial copy numbers of 100 000 copies. Cases where both targets were present could be discriminated with equal confidence for Cy5 channel and reduced levels of confidence (>68%) for FAM channel. Moreover, a 2-plex digital PCR reaction in 1 color channel was shown. In the future, the degree of multiplexing may be increased by adding fluorogenic probe pairs with other emission wavelengths. The method may also be applied to other probe and assay formats, such as Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) probes and immunoassays.