Molecular aspects of avian influenza (H5N1) viruses isolated from humans
Subbarao, K.; Shaw, M.W.
Reviews in Medical Virology 10(5): 337-348
The heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) is a means of comparing two PCR amplicons or, in the variation known as the heteroduplex tracking assay (HTA), a means of estimating the quasispecies diversity of a viral genome. Heteroduplex assays have many applications including subtyping viral genomes, screening for low frequency variants in a population, scanning the relative genetic diversity across a genome and screening for recombinant clones. They can be used to detect dual infections, superinfections, contaminated blood products and laboratory contaminations. PCR amplicons of about 65% sequence similarity or greater will form heteroduplexes under appropriate conditions, and phylogenetic trees can be drawn from heteroduplex mobility data. While homoduplexes indicate more than 98% similarity between two DNA sequences, heteroduplexes indicate at least seven mismatches in a 500-bp amplicon, or a three-base pair gap in 1000-bp. Minority variants comprising 1% to 5% of the genome population can be detected and quantified by HTA. Thus far, heteroduplex assays have been described for HIV and other lentiviruses, hepatitis C and G viruses, Norwalk-like viruses, influenza, measles and poliovirus. They could be applied to a wide range of other viral species.