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J Microbiol Methods. 2007 Aug;70(2):355-62. Epub 2007 May 29.

Identification of suitable internal controls to study expression of a Staphylococcus aureus multidrug resistance system by quantitative real-time PCR.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences A12, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) has become a routine technique for gene expression analysis. Housekeeping genes are customarily used as endogenous references for the relative quantification of genes of interest. The aim of this study was to develop a quantitative real-time PCR assay to analyze gene expression in multidrug resistant Staphylococcus aureus in the presence of cationic lipophilic substrates of multidrug transport proteins. Eleven different housekeeping genes were analyzed for their expression stability in the presence of a range of concentrations of four structurally different antimicrobial compounds. This analysis demonstrated that the genes rho, pyk and proC were least affected by rhodamine 6G and crystal violet, whereas fabD, tpiA and gyrA or fabD, proC and pyk were stably expressed in cultures grown in the presence of ethidium or berberine, respectively. Subsequently, these housekeeping genes were used as internal controls to analyze expression of the multidrug transport protein QacA and its transcriptional regulator QacR in the presence of the aforementioned compounds. Expression of qacA was induced by all four compounds, whereas qacR expression was found to be unaffected, reduced or enhanced. This study demonstrates that staphylococcal gene expression, including housekeeping genes previously used to normalize qRT-PCR data, is affected by growth in the presence of different antimicrobial compounds. Thus, identification of suitable genes usable as a control set requires rigorous testing. Identification of a such a set enabled them to be utilized as internal standards for accurate quantification of transcripts of the qac multidrug resistance system from S. aureus grown under different inducing conditions. Moreover, the qRT-PCR assay presented in this study may also be applied to gene expression studies of other multidrug transporters from S. aureus.

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