Polymerases are enzymes that synthesize DNA from an existing template. Polymerase requires a primer, nucleotides, and magnesium in order to function. In early PCR methods, the DNA polymerase was inactivated during the denaturation step. This required new polymerase to be added during each cycle of PCR. This problem was solved by the discovery of an enzyme termed Taq polymerase.
Taq polymerase is isolated from the thermophilic organism Thermus aquaticus, a natural bacterium found in thermal springs. The Taq polymerase has optimal activity at 72°C but it can survive in temperatures up to 95°C.
Today there are several other kinds of thermostable enzymes that are available for PCR, such as Pfu and Tli DNA polymerase. However, Taq is the DNA polymerase that is used most often in PCR procedures.