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Identification of single target taxon-specific reference assays for the most commonly genetically transformed crops using digital droplet PCR

Knowledge of the number of DNA sequences targeted by the taxon-specific reference assays is essential for correct GM quantification and is key to the harmonisation of measurement results. In the present study droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) was used to determine the number of DNA target copies of taxon-specific assays validated for real-time PCR for the four main genetically modified (GM) crops. The transferability of experimental conditions from real-time PCR to ddPCR was also explored, as well as the effect of DNA digestion. The results of this study indicate that for each crop at least one taxon-specific assay can be identified as having a single DNA target. A short list of taxon-specific reference assays is proposed as best candidates for the relative quantification of GM events for soybean, maize, cotton and oilseed rape. The investigated assays could be in most cases transferred to ddPCR without further optimisation. The use of DNA digestion did not improve ddPCR characteristics such as rain and resolution at the conditions tested.