Polymerase chain reaction is a method to analyze a short sequence of DNA (or RNA) even in samples containing only minute quantities of DNA or RNA. PCR is used to reproduce (amplify) selected sections of DNA or RNA.
Previously, amplification of DNA involved cloning the segments of interest into vectors for expression in bacteria, and took weeks. But now, with PCR done in test tubes, it takes only a few hours. PCR is highly efficient, so that untold numbers of copies can be made of the DNA. Moreover, PCR uses the same molecules that nature uses for copying DNA:
Two "primers", short single-stranded DNA sequences that are synthesized to correspond to the beginning and ending of the DNA stretch to be copied.
An enzyme called polymerase that moves along the segment of DNA, reading its code and assembling a copy.
A pile of DNA building blocks that the polymerase needs to make that copy.
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