Pyrophosphorolysis-activated polymerization (PAP) was initially developed to enhance the specificity of allele-specific PCR for detection of known mutations in the presence of a great excess of wild-type allele. The high specificity of PAP derives from the serial coupling of pyrophosphorolysis-mediated activation of a pyrophosphorolysis-activatable oligonucleotide (P*) followed by extension of the activated oligonucleotide. Herein, we demonstrate that genetically engineered DNA polymerases greatly improve the efficiency of PAP, making it a practical technique for detection of rare mutations. We also show that P* oligonucleotides have the novel and unexpected property of high sensitivity to mismatches throughout at least the 16 3′-terminal nucleotides. Thus, PAP constitutes a technology platform of potential utility whenever high specificity is required along the length of an oligonucleotide.