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Mol Biotechnol. 2002 May;21(1):19-37.

Quantitative analysis of gene expression by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence detection.

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  • 1United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2350, USA.


There has been a dramatic expansion of DNA sequence information compiled over the past several years for a variety of eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes. Accompanying this increase in knowledge of genomic structure and organization has been a growing interest in studying the function of individual genes including regulation of their expression. A number of methods such as Northern blotting, ribonuclease protection assay, and hybridization arrays have been developed to analyze gene expression at the transcriptional (mRNA) level. Although quantitative estimates of mRNA transcripts can be obtained from each of these methods, oftentimes they lack sufficient sensitivity or the methodology is too costly or too labor-intensive to be applied to the analysis of a large number of samples. The most sensitive method for analyzing gene expression at the mRNA level involves the combination of reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). However, in order to provide accurate quantitative estimates of gene expression, a rapid and efficient method is required for separation and detection of the double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) products of RT-PCR. Recent advances in capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence detection (CE/LIF) have made this method suitable for the automated analysis of large numbers of RT-PCR samples. An overview of the application of CE/LIF to quantitative analysis of gene expression by RT-PCR is presented along with selected protocols and examples. Both relative-quantitative (RQ) and quantitative-competitive (QC) approaches to RT-PCR are discussed in conjunction with the use of CE/LIF for rapid and accurate quantitative analysis of PCR products.

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