Loop-mediated isothermal amplification
Loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) is a single tube technique for the amplification of DNA. This may be of use in future as a low cost alternative to detect certain diseases. It may be combined with a reverse transcription step to allow the detection of RNA.
LAMP is an isothermal nucleic acid amplification technique. In contrast to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology in which the reaction is carried out with a series of alternating temperature steps or cycles, isothermal amplification is carried out at a constant temperature, and does not require a thermal cycler.
In LAMP, the target sequence is amplified at a constant temperature of 60 - 65 °C using either two or three sets of primers and a polymerase with high strand displacement activity in addition to a replication activity. Typically, 4 different primers are used to identify 6 distinct regions on the target gene, which adds highly to the specificity. An additional pair of "loop primers" can further accelerate the reaction. Due to the specific nature of the action of these primers, the amount of DNA produced in LAMP is considerably higher than PCR based amplification.
Detection of amplification product can be determined via photometry for turbidity caused by an increasing quantity of magnesium pyrophosphate precipitate in solution as a byproduct of amplification. This allows easy visualization by the naked eye, especially for larger reaction volumes, or via simple detection approaches for smaller volumes. The reaction can be followed in real-time either by measuring the turbidity or by fluorescence using intercalating dyes such as SYTO 9. Dyes such as SYBR green, can be used to create a visible color change can be seen with naked eyes without the need for expensive equipment, or a response that can more accurately be measured by instrumentation. Dye molecules intercalate or directly label the DNA, and in turn can be correlated to the number of copies initially present. Hence, LAMP can also be quantitative. In-tube detection of DNA amplification is possible using manganese loaded calcein which starts fluorescing upon complexation of manganese by pyrophosphate during in vitro DNA synthesis.
Uses and benefits
LAMP is a relatively new DNA amplification technique, which due to its simplicity, ruggedness, and low cost could provide major advantages. LAMP has the potential to be used as a simple screening assay in the field or at the point of care by clinicians. Because LAMP is isothermal, which eradicates the need for expensive thermocyclers used in conventional PCR, it may be a particularly useful method for infectious disease diagnosis in low and middle income countries. While LAMP is widely being studied for detecting infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and sleeping sickness. In developing regions, it has yet to be extensively validated for other common pathogens.
Several reports describe successful detection of pathogens from minimally processed samples such as heat-treated blood, or in presence of clinical sample matrices. This feature of LAMP may be useful in low-resource or field settings where a conventional DNA or RNA extraction prior to diagnostic testing may be impractical.
LAMP has been observed to be less sensitive than PCR to inhibitors in complex samples such as blood, likely due to use of a different DNA polymerase (typically Bst DNA polymerase rather than Taq polymerase as in PCR).
LAMP is less versatile than PCR, the most familiar nucleic acid amplification technique. LAMP is useful primarily as a diagnostic or detection technique, but is not useful for cloning or myriad other molecular biology applications enabled by PCR. Because LAMP uses 4 (or 6) primers targeting 6 (or 8) regions within a fairly small segment of the genome, and because primer design is subject to numerous constraints, it is difficult to design primer sets for LAMP "by eye". Free, open-source or commercial software packages are generally used to assist with LAMP primer design, although the primer design constraints mean there is less freedom to choose the target site than with PCR. In a diagnostic application, this must be balanced against the need to choose an appropriate target (e.g., a conserved site in a highly variable viral genome, or a target that is specific for a particular strain of pathogen).
Multiplexing approaches for LAMP are less developed than for PCR. The larger number of primers per target in LAMP increases the likelihood of primer-primer interactions for multiplexed target sets. The product of LAMP is a series of concatemers of the target region, giving rise to a characteristic "ladder" or banding pattern on a gel, rather than a single band as with PCR. Although this is not a problem when detecting single targets with LAMP, "traditional" (endpoint) multiplex PCR applications wherein identity of a target is confirmed by size of a band on a gel are not feasible with LAMP. Multiplexing in LAMP has been achieved by choosing a target region with a restriction site, and digesting prior to running on a gel, such that each product gives rise to a distinct size of fragment, although this approach adds complexity to the experimental design and protocol. The use of a strand-displacing DNA polymerase in LAMP also precludes the use of hydrolysis probes, e.g. TaqMan probes, which rely upon the 5'-3' exonuclease activity of Taq polymerase. An alternative real-time multiplexing approach based on fluorescence quenchers has been reported.
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