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Biotechniques. 2006 Feb;40(2):173-7.

Comparison of in vitro and in vivo reference genes for internal standardization of real-time PCR data.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


Real-time PCR is a powerful technique for gene expression studies, which have become increasingly important in a large number of clinical and scientific fields. The significance of the obtained results strongly depends on the normalization of the data to compensate for differences between the samples. The most widely used approach is to use endogenous reference genes (housekeeping genes) as internal standards. This approach is controversially discussed in the literature because none of the reference genes is stably expressed throughout all biological samples. Therefore, candidate reference genes have to be validated for each experimental condition. In our studies, we introduced and evaluated an in vitro synthesized reference cRNA for internal standardization of relative messenger RNA (mRNA) expression patterns. This reference, consisting of the in vitro transcribed coding sequence of aequorin, a jellyfish protein, was incorporated in the extracted RNA. The experimental significance of this approach was representatively tested for the expression of the neurotrophin-3 mRNA in distinct regions of mouse brains. A comparison to three stably expressed reference genes [beta-actin, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), and hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl-transferase 1 (HPRT1)] gave evidence that the spiking of template RNA with in vitro transcribed cRNA is a valuable tool for internal standardization of real-time PCR experiments.

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