In an effort to discover all factors constraining the speed of polymerases in the PCR reaction, a University of Utah group headed by Carl Wittwer has developed a fluorescent probe to monitor polymerase activity.

In a trio of recent studies using this probe, the group has begun to define the various rate-limiting factors in the extension phase of PCR. Temperature and base content of a strand of template were shown to influence speed. Monovalent cations and secondary structure slowed down rates, and addition of just the right amount of DMSO could speed them up.

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