Decoding DNA labels by melting curve analysis using real-time PCR

Balog JA, Fehér LZ, Puskás LG.


Synthetic DNA has been used as an authentication code for a diverse number of applications. However, existing decoding approaches are based on either DNA sequencing or the determination of DNA length variations. Here, we present a simple alternative protocol for labeling different objects using a small number of short DNA sequences that differ in their melting points. Code amplification and decoding can be done in two steps using quantitative PCR (qPCR). To obtain a DNA barcode with high complexity, we defined 8 template groups, each having 4 different DNA templates, yielding 158 (>2.5 billion) combinations of different individual melting temperature (Tm) values and corresponding ID codes. The reproducibility and specificity of the decoding was confirmed by using the most complex template mixture, which had 32 different products in 8 groups with different Tm values. The industrial applicability of our protocol was also demonstrated by labeling a drone with an oil-based paint containing a predefined DNA code, which was then successfully decoded. The method presented here consists of a simple code system based on a small number of synthetic DNA sequences and a cost-effective, rapid decoding protocol using a few qPCR reactions, enabling a wide range of authentication applications.