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Searching for microbes Part IX. Detection of nucleic acid. Ondřej Zahradníček To practical of VLLM0421c Content of this slideshow. Introduction – Tale. Methods of nucleic acid detection. PCR principle. PCR practically. Check-up questions. Tale.

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Searching for microbes part ix detection of nucleic acid

Searching for microbesPart IX.Detection of nucleic acid

Ondřej Zahradníček

To practical of VLLM0421c

Content of this slideshow

Content of this slideshow

Introduction – Tale

Methods of nucleic acid detection

PCR principle

PCR practically

Check-up questions

Searching for microbes part ix detection of nucleic acid


  • Whed Lipold, son of a peasant from Grillowitz, suburbs of Brno, died in 1184, his death was connected with suspicions. Was it really tuberculosis, what caused his death? People said, that his brother Diepold was jealous, because Lipold‘s part of family field was better and more sunny.

  • More than eight centuries later, the truth will be found: Lipold‘s death was caused not by Diepold, but by Mycobacterium tuberculosis

What to learn from the tale

What to learn from the tale

  • Nucleic acid detection is a very sensitive and precise method – sometimes so sensitive, that its sensitivity has to be restricted artificially to avoid detection of accidentally found components

  • An interesting fact: microbial DNA may be found in bones centuries old

  • These methods are used mostly in situations, where other direct methods are complicated and poorly accessible

Methods of nucleic acid detection

Methods of nucleic acid detection

Use of dna rna detection in medical microbiology

Use of DNA (RNA) detection in medical microbiology

  • The methods are used mostly in situations, where microscopic and culture diagnostic is difficult or impossible

  • A typical example is M. tuberculosis

  • It is not very useful for common, ubiquitous pathogens. Because of its sensitivity they would detect accidental molecules comming from environment

  • The methods are neither useless, as some people think, nor all-problems-solving, as some other people suppose.

Important note

Important note

  • We are not going to teach you principles of molecular methods.You have it in other subjects.

  • We are only going toshow you how to use that methods in medical microbiology.

  • Individuals with more profound interest fot this problematic can register dr. Filip Růžička‘s subject VSMB081 subject in 3rd–5th year (but until now in Czech only)

Nucleic acid detection

Nucleic acid detection

  • Methods without amplification (genetic probes). They are less sensitive, sometimes it is an advantage

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a very sensitive method, one molecule of DNA is remaining. It is possible to decrease the sensitivity artificially. PCR was developped by Dr. K. Mullis, who got Nobel prize for PCR in 1993.

  • Ligase chain reaction (LCR)is very simillar (but implemented by another company)

  • Detection of viral RNA is possible using adapted PCR

More classification of pcr with regard with various target molecules of amplification

More classification of PCR with regard with various target molecules of amplification

  • specific PCR (specific gene for an enzyme, pathogenicity factor etc.)

  • „multiplex PCR“ (several specific target sites in one reaction)

  • universal PCR (target site = a gene possessed by all bacteria – e. g. 16S rRNA)

Dna mikroarray biochip

A DNA microarray (synonyms: gene chip, DNA chip, biochip) is a collection of microscopic DNA spots attached to a solid surface (glass, silicon).

Use: measuring ofexpression levels of large numbers of genes (104, even 106) simultaneously or to genotype multiple regions of a genome.

Each DNA spot contains only several molecules of a specific DNA sequence (oligonucleotide), known as probes (or reporters). The sample comes to the contact with the spot.

Now, molecules in the sample (called target molecules) hybridize with complementary molecules of the surface.

Hybridization is detected and quantified by fluorophore-labeled (or differently labeled) targets.

Results are almost processed by bioinformatic methods.

RNA chips and protein chips are simillar.

DNA mikroarray („biochip")

Dna microarray

DNA microarray

Real time pcr

Real-time PCR

  • Also called quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR/qRT-PCR)

  • The quantity can be either an absolute number of copies or a relative amount

  • Follows the general principle of PCR, but amplified DNA is detected as the reaction progresses in real time.

  • Two common methods for detection of products in RT-PCR:

    • non-specific fluorescent dyes that intercalate with any double-stranded DNA

    • sequence-specific DNA probes (oligonucleotides labeled with a fluorescent reporter which permits detection only after hybridization of the probe with its complementary DNA target)

Fluorescence detection in rt pcr

Fluorescence detection in RT-PCR

Lcr in russian

LCR in Russian 

Pcr principle

PCR principle

Basic scheme of pcr reaction

Basic scheme of PCR reaction

  • In first phase we have to get isolated DNA. It is a complex process

  • In second phase proper amplification runs (only if the specimen contains a part of DNA corresponding to a primer)

  • In third phase amplification product should be detected by

    • gel electroforesis of by

    • ELISA method (≠ serologic ELISA for microbial antigen/antibody detection!!!)

    • use of fluorescence sond

    • another way

Dna isolation

DNA isolation

  • DNA isolation is the process that should precede the proper PCR. The cells should be lysed and their various components removed.

Amplification of specific sections of DNA using PCR method

  • Amplification is the clue part of the PCR reaction. It uses Taq polymerase.

Dna isolation course

DNA isolation course

  • Addition of Sarcosyl, vortexing

  • Addition of Silica globules, centrifugation, supernatant 

  • Addition of G2 solution, centrifugation, supernatant 

  • Addition of 80% ethanol, centrifugation, supernatant 

  • Addition of aceton, centrifugation, supernatant 

  • Drying

  • Addition of TE sollution, vortexing, centrifugation

  • Removal of the pure DNA-solution to a micro-test tube

Pcr and temperature

PCR and temperature

PCR development was enabled by research leading to finding Taq polymerase from a thermophilic bacterium Thermus aquaticus, being able to survive high temperatures.

Pcr process

PCR process




Pcr practically

PCR practically

Why internal control is so important

Why internal control is so important

  • Very common situation is so called inhibition of reaction. This inhibition is caused by inferferring agents (talc from gloves)

  • Therefore, the mixture for detection should contain not only the specimen and corresponding primers, but also control DNA + primers. Positivity of IC  no inhibition of reaction

  • In highly positive specimens, IC might be negative (losing in nucleotide competition). It does not matter – inhibition of reaction is excluded by seeing the positive result

Possible pcr results

Possible PCR results

The following is valid, not regarding the way of detection (gel electroforesis of ELISA)

  • Positive result of a specimen is interpreted as positivity. IC result is usually positive, too, but in highly positive cases sometimes not.

  • Negative result of a specimen at positive IC result= negative reaction result

  • Both specimen and IC negative = inhibition of reaction

  • Inhibition of reaction – interpretation: the test result is invalid, the test should be repeated, similarlly like e. g. serum anticomplementarity in CFT)

Survey of interpretation

Survey of interpretation

Detection of pcr results using gel electroforesis

Detection of PCR results using gel electroforesis

  • Gel electroforesis is one of methods of PCR product detection

  • The products difuse through the gel from a cathode to an anode and they are visualised using a UV-transluminator

  • Each specimen encomprises also an internal control (IC)

  • Besides the specimens, we have also a ladder for measurement of molecular weight of a reaction product

An expample of a gel www medmicro info

An expample of a gel(

proper reactions

internal controls

Patients 1 and 4 – positive, patient 2 – negative, patient 3 – inhibition of reaction. 5 – positive control, 6 – negative control, 7 – ladder

Search for pcr product using elisa method

Search for PCR product using ELISA method

  • In J08 practical the use ELISA reaction to antigen/antibody detection is discussed

  • The approach, using ELISA reaction for PCR product detection, is different: it is not a „serological ELISA“, but an ELISA-detection of PCR product. That is why besides the specimen, we have an internal control well, too, in the plate

Rt pcr


  • We use another (fluorescence) method of reaction product detection

  • The course of reaction is measured in real time

  • Nevertheless, here too, we have three types of reaction result: positive/negative/inhibition




Proper reaction line

Internal control line

Comparison of two reactions antibody detection and pcr

Comparison of two reactions: antibody detection and PCR

  • Result of one reaction is often not certain enough. Therefore, a combination of various reaction resultsis often used for interpretation.

  • In our case, we have a PCR result and ELISAreaction result.

  • We have to understand, that PCR is a direct diagnostic method, while ELISA for antibody detection is an indirect diagnostics, with all risks connected with this fact

The end

The End

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

  • It is causative agent of all forms of tuberculosis

  • Interesting for this microbe: it lives inside cells. One of consequences of this fact is that the immunity is mostly cellular and antibody response is weak and irregular. So indirect diagnostics is not used in practice.

  • Microscopy is possible, but it requires special staining method including heating (Ziehl-Neelsen, see P08 practical session)

  • Culture is also possible, but it requires special media and it durates several weeks

  • So, PCR is a good solution for diagnostics.

Check up questions

Check-up questions

The formulations may be something different!

  • 1. What is the usual characteristic of a microorganism eligible for PCR diagnostics?

  • 2. How to prevent contamination of PCR?

  • 3. You (as a doctor) have got a report from PCR laboratory: „PCR test result of patient XY for Lyme boreliosis: inhibition of reaction“. How would you interprete such result?

  • 4. Peter has a fresh infection of Lyme disease (one week after being infected) with neurologic symtomatology. What is the likely pattern of his PCR, ELISA-IgM and ELISA-IgG reactions?

  • 5. What is the main difference between genetic probes and PCR?

  • 6. What is the name of the test used for checking of expression of many different genes simultaneously?

  • 7. What does abreviation RT-PCR mean?

  • 8. What is the main difference classical PCR vs. RT-PCR?

  • 9. What are the methods that can be used for detection of PCR product in medical microbiology?

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