Principle and applications of digital PCR

Gudrun Pohl, Le Ming Shih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital PCR represents an example of the power of PCR and provides unprecedented opportunities for molecular genetic analysis in cancer. The technique is to amplify a single DNA template from minimally diluted samples, therefore generating amplicons that are exclusively derived from one template and can be detected with different fluorophores or sequencing to discriminate different alleles (e.g., wild type vs. mutant or paternal vs. maternal alleles). Thus, digital PCR transforms the exponential, analog signals obtained from conventional PCR to linear, digital signals, allowing statistical analysis of the PCR product. Digital PCR has been applied in quantification of mutant alleles and detection of allelic imbalance in clinical specimens, providing a promising molecular diagnostic tool for cancer detection. The scope of this article is to review the principles of digital PCR and its practical applications in cancer research and in the molecular diagnosis of cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalExpert Review of Molecular Diagnostics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Detection
  • Diagnosis
  • Digital PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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