NCI Dictionary of Genetics Terms

The NCI Dictionary of Genetics Terms contains technical definitions for more than 200 terms related to genetics. These definitions were developed by the PDQ® Cancer Genetics Editorial Board to support the evidence-based, peer-reviewed PDQ cancer genetics information summaries.

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polymerase chain reaction
(puh-LIH-meh-rays chayn ree-AK-shun)
A procedure that produces millions of copies of a short segment of DNA through repeated cycles of: (1) denaturation, (2) annealing, and (3) elongation. Polymerase chain reaction is a very common procedure in molecular genetic testing and may be used to generate a sufficient quantity of DNA to perform a test (e.g., allele-specific amplification, trinucleotide repeat quantification). Also called PCR.