Unexpected transformation of black hole quenchers in electrophoretic purification of the fluorescein-containing TaqMan probes

The fluorescence quenchers BHQ1 and BHQ2 can be modified by trace amounts of ammonium persulfate, used for initiating gel polymerization, in electrophoretic purification of TaqMan probes using a denaturing polyacrylamide gel. The case study of BHQ1 quencher has demonstrated that a Boyland–Sims reaction proceeds in the presence of ammonium persulfate to give the corresponding sulfate. The absorption maximum of the resulting quencher shifts to the short-wavelength region relative to the absorption maximum of the initial BHQ1. The TaqMan probe containing such a quencher is less efficient as compared with the probe carrying an unmodified BHQ1. The presence of fluorescein in TaqMan probe plays decisive role in this transformation: the quencher modification proceeds at a considerably lower rate when the fluorescein is absent or replaced with a rhodamine dye (for example, R6G). It is assumed that the observed reaction can take place in two ways—both in darkness and in the reaction of the quencher in an excited state due to energy transfer from the fluorophore irradiated by light.