Reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction: principles and applications in dentistry

  • Carlos Ferreira dos Santos University of São Paulo; Bauru School of Dentistry
  • Vivien Thiemy Sakai University of São Paulo; Bauru School of Dentistry
  • Maria Aparecida de Andrade Moreira Machado University of São Paulo; Bauru School of Dentistry
  • Daniela Nicole Schippers Medical College of Wisconsin; Department of Physiology
  • Andrew Seth Greene Medical College of Wisconsin; Department of Physiology; Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center
Keywords: Dental caries, Periodontitis, Dental pulp disease, Oral cancer


Various molecular biology techniques have become available in the last few years. One of the most revolutionary of these techniques regarding nucleic acid analysis is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which was first described in 1985. This method relies on the exponential amplification of specific DNA fragments, resulting in millions of copies that can serve as templates for different kinds of analyses. PCR can be preceded by a reverse transcription (RT) reaction in order to produce cDNA from RNA (RT-PCR). RT-PCR provides the possibility to assess gene transcription in cells or tissues. PCR and RT-PCR techniques have been instrumental in dental research, and show potential to be used for diagnosis as well as for treatment and prevention of many diseases (dental caries, periodontal disease, endodontic infections and oral cancer). Compared to other traditional methodologies, PCR and RT-PCR show many advantages including high specificity, sensitivity, and speed. Since PCR and RT-PCR are relatively new techniques and are not available to most students and professionals involved with dentistry, the aim of this work is to present the details of these techniques as well as dental literature reports in which they were used.


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