Microsatellite mutations during the polymerase chain reaction: mean field approximations and their applications.


We develop a novel mathematical model for microsatellite mutations during polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Based on the model, we study the first- and second-order moments of the number of repeat units in a randomly chosen molecule after n PCR cycles and their corresponding mean field approximations. We give upper bounds for the approximation errors and show that the approximation errors are small when the mutation rate is low. Based on the theoretical results, we develop a moment estimation method to estimate the mutation rate per-repeat-unit per PCR cycle and the probability of expansion when mutations occur. Simulation studies show that the moment estimation method can accurately recover the true mutation rate and probability of expansion. Finally, the method is applied to experimental data from single-molecule PCR experiments.

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