L Pantano,L Armengol,S Villatoro,X Estivill
Background: The technological evolution of platforms for detecting genome-wide copy number imbalances has allowed the discovery of an unexpected amount of human sequence that is variable in copy number among individuals. This type of human variation can make an important contribution to human diversity and disease susceptibility. Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA) is a targeted method to assess copy number differences for up to 40 genomic loci in one single experiment. Although specific MLPA assays can be ordered from MRC-Holland (the proprietary company of the MLPA technology), custom designs are also developed in many laboratories worldwide. After our own experience, an important drawback of custom MLPA assays is the time spent during the design of the specific oligonucleotides that are used as probes. Due to the large number of probes included in a single assay, a number of restrictions need to be met in order to maximize specificity and to increase success likelihood. Results: We have developed a web tool for facilitating and optimising custom probe design for MLPA experiments. The algorithm only requires the target sequence in FASTA format and a set of parameters, that are provided by the user according to each specific MLPA assay, to identify the best probes inside the given region. Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first available tool for optimizing custom probe design of MLPA assays. The ease-of-use and speed of the algorithm dramatically reduces the turn around time of probe design. ProSeeK will become a useful tool for all laboratories that are currently using MLPA in their research projects for CNV studies.