The mutation process of microsatellites during the polymerase chain reaction.


We build a mathematical model for the mutation process of microsatellites during polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using the theory of branching processes. Based on the model, we develop a method to estimate the mutation rate of microsatellites per PCR cycle and the probability of expansion by maximizing a quasi-likelihood of the observed data. We show by simulations that the proposed estimation method can accurately recover the relationship between the mutation rate and number of repeat units. The theoretical basis for the proposed method is also given. We apply the method to experimental data on poly-A and poly-CA repeats.

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