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PCR enrichment techniques to identify the diet of predators


R. O’Rorke, Fax: 64-9-373-7417; E-mail:


The increasing sensitivity of PCR has meant that in the last two decades PCR has emerged as a major tool in diet studies, enabling us to refine our understanding of trophic links and to elucidate the diets of predators whose prey is as yet uncharacterized. The achievements and methods of PCR-based diet studies have been reviewed several times, but here we review an important development in the field: the use of PCR enrichment techniques to promote the amplification of prey DNA over that of the predator. We first discuss the success of using group-specific primers either in parallel single reactions or in multiplex reactions. We then concentrate on the more recent use of PCR enrichment techniques such as restriction enzyme digests, peptide nucleic acid clamping, DNA blocking and laser capture microdissection. We also survey the vast literature on enrichment techniques in clinical biology, to ascertain the pitfalls of enrichment techniques and what refinements have yielded some highly sensitive methods. We find that while there are several new approaches to enrichment, peptide nucleic acid clamping and DNA blocking are generally sufficient techniques for the characterization of diets of predators and highlight the most important considerations of the approach.