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1.  Comparison of three different kits for extraction of high-quality RNA from frozen blood 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:76.
Extraction of high-quality RNA is a crucial step in gene expression profiling. To achieve optimal RNA extraction from frozen blood, the performance of three RNA extraction kits- TRI reagent, PAXgene blood RNA system (PAXgene) and NucleoSpin RNA blood kit (NucleoSpin)- was evaluated. Fifteen blood specimens collected in tubes containing potassium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) and stored at −80°C for approximately 5 years were randomly selected. The yield and purity of RNA, RIN (RNA integrity number) values and cycle threshold (Ct) values were assessed. Mean RNA yields with TRI reagent, PAXgene and NucleoSpin were 15.6 ± 8.7 μg/ml, 3.1 ± 1.7 μg/ml and 9.0 ± 5.5 μg/ml, respectively. Mean A260/280 ratios of RNA for the three kits were 1.7 ± 0.1, 2.0 ± 0.1, and 2.0 ± 0.0, and mean RIN values recorded as 3.2 ± 0.8, 6.0 ± 1.1, and 6.4 ± 0.9, respectively. The Ct values of housekeeping genes, 18S rRNA, β-actin, RPLP0 and HPRT1, were as follows: TRI reagent (19.2 ± 1.6, 30.6 ± 1.8, 29.9 ± 1.4 and 36.3 ± 1.3), PAXgene 16.6 ± 1.4, 26.4 ± 1.3, 28.2 ± 1.8 and 33.8 ± 1.1), and NucleoSpin (16.3 ± 1.5, 27.2 ± 1.3, 27.0 ± 1.6 and 32.9 ± 1.6). RNA yield using TRI reagent was 1.7 times higher than that with NucleoSpin and 5 times higher than that with PAXgene. However, the purity and integrity of TRI-extracted RNA was lower than that extracted with PAXgene and NucleoSpin. Moreover, the Ct values of housekeeping genes after extraction with TRI reagent were approximately 1.7-3.8 times higher than those obtained with PAXgene and NucleoSpin. The PAXgene and NucleoSpin kits produced similar results in terms of RNA purity and integrity and subsequent gene amplification. However, RNA yields from NucleoSpin were 2.9-fold higher, compared to PAXgene. Based on these findings, we conclude that NucleoSpin is the most effective kit for extraction of abundant and high-quality RNA from frozen blood.
PMCID: PMC3925490  PMID: 24567882
Frozen blood; RNA extraction; RT-qPCR
2.  Successful downstream application of the Paxgene Blood RNA system from small blood samples in paediatric patients for quantitative PCR analysis 
BMC Immunology  2007;8:20.
The challenge of gene expression studies is to reliably quantify levels of transcripts, but this is hindered by a number of factors including sample availability, handling and storage. The PAXgene™ Blood RNA System includes a stabilizing additive in a plastic evacuated tube, but requires 2.5 mL blood, which makes routine implementation impractical for paediatric use.
The aim of this study was to modify the PAXgene™ Blood RNA System kit protocol for application to small, sick chidren, without compromising RNA integrity, and subsequently to perform quantitative analysis of ICAM and interleukin-6 gene expression.
Aliquots of 0.86 mL PAXgene™ reagent were put into microtubes and 0.3 mL whole blood added to maintain the same recommended proportions as in the PAXgene™ evacuated tube system. RNA quality was assessed using the Agilent BioAnalyser 2100 and an in-house TaqMan™ assay which measures GAPDH transcript integrity by determining 3' to 5' ratios. qPCR analysis was performed on an additional panel of 7 housekeeping genes. Three reference genes (HPRT1, YWHAZ and GAPDH) were identified using the GeNORM algorithm, which were subsequently used to normalising target gene expression levels. ICAM-1 and IL-6 gene expression were measured in 87 Malawian children with invasive pneumococcal disease.
Total RNA yield was between 1,114 and 2,950 ng and the BioAnalyser 2100 demonstrated discernible 18s and 28s bands. The cycle threshold values obtained for the seven housekeeping genes were between 15 and 30 and showed good consistency. Median relative ICAM and IL-6 gene expression were significantly reduced in non-survivors compared to survivors (ICAM: 3.56 vs 4.41, p = 0.04, and IL-6: 2.16 vs 6.73, p = 0.02).
We have successfully modified the PAXgene™ blood collection system for use in small children and demonstrated preservation of RNA integrity and successful quantitative real-time PCR analysis.
PMCID: PMC2031894  PMID: 17850649
3.  Extraction of High Quality RNA from Polysaccharide Matrices using Cetlytrimethylammonium Bromide 
Biomaterials  2009;31(7):1612.
Polysaccharides are increasingly being used as biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Quantitative analysis of gene expression from cells in three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds requires extraction of messenger RNA, which is complicated in polysaccharide materials by ionic complexing between nucleic acids and the matrix. We used a strongly cationic surfactant, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), to extract RNA from human mesenchymal stem cells embedded in 3D chitosan, agarose and collagen matrices. CTAB extraction was compared to conventional guanidinium thiocyanate-based methods for RNA isolation by assessing RNA yield, purity (A260/A280 and A260/A230) and integrity (28S/18S and RIN). For polysaccharide-based matrices, CTAB extraction yielded significantly more RNA with higher purity than guanidinium thiocyanate-based methods alone. The extracted RNA was largely intact as indicated by 28S/18S ratios and RIN values, while these parameters could not be measured using conventional kits alone. For pure collagen matrices, the CTAB method was comparable or better than guanidinium thiocyanate-based methods in terms of RNA yield and quality. We further validated the CTAB protocol using semi-quantitative and quantitative RT-PCR to amplify both large and small amplicons. Our results show that the CTAB-based method is a facile and effective way to extract abundant, high quality RNA from polysaccharide and protein biomaterials.
PMCID: PMC2813910  PMID: 19962190
RNA; PCR; polysaccharide; tissue engineering; chitosan; collagen
4.  Selection of reference genes for gene expression studies in pig tissues using SYBR green qPCR 
Real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) is a method for rapid and reliable quantification of mRNA transcription. Internal standards such as reference genes are used to normalise mRNA levels between different samples for an exact comparison of mRNA transcription level. Selection of high quality reference genes is of crucial importance for the interpretation of data generated by real-time qPCR.
In this study nine commonly used reference genes were investigated in 17 different pig tissues using real-time qPCR with SYBR green. The genes included beta-actin (ACTB), beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), hydroxymethylbilane synthase (HMBS), hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase 1 (HPRT1), ribosomal protein L4 (RPL4), succinate dehydrogenase complex subunit A (SDHA), TATA box binding protein (TPB)and tyrosine 3-monooxygenase/tryptophan 5-monooxygenase activation protein zeta polypeptide (YWHAZ). The stability of these reference genes in different pig tissues was investigated using the geNorm application. The range of expression stability in the genes analysed was (from the most stable to the least stable): ACTB/RPL4, TBP, HPRT, HMBS, YWHAZ, SDHA, B2M and GAPDH.
Expression stability varies greatly between genes. ACTB, RPL4, TPB and HPRT1 were found to have the highest stability across tissues. Based on both expression stability and expression level, our data suggest that ACTB and RPL4 are good reference genes for high abundant transcripts while TPB and HPRT1 are good reference genes for low abundant transcripts in expression studies across different pig tissues.
PMCID: PMC2000887  PMID: 17697375
5.  Identification of valid reference genes for gene expression studies of human stomach cancer by reverse transcription-qPCR 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:240.
Reverse transcription quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is a powerful method for the analysis of gene expression. Target gene expression levels are usually normalized to a consistently expressed reference gene also known as internal standard, in the same sample. However, much effort has not been expended thus far in the search for reference genes suitable for the study of stomach cancer using RT-qPCR, although selection of optimal reference genes is critical for interpretation of results.
We assessed the suitability of six possible reference genes, beta-actin (ACTB), glyceraldehydes-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl transferase 1 (HPRT1), beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), ribosomal subunit L29 (RPL29) and 18S ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) in 20 normal and tumor stomach tissue pairs of stomach cancer patients and 6 stomach cancer cell lines, by RT-qPCR. Employing expression stability analyses using NormFinder and geNorm algorithms we determined the order of performance of these reference genes and their variation values.
This RT-qPCR study showed that there are statistically significant (p < 0.05) differences in the expression levels of HPRT1 and 18S rRNA in 'normal-' versus 'tumor stomach tissues'. The stability analyses by geNorm suggest B2M-GAPDH, as best reference gene combination for 'stomach cancer cell lines'; RPL29-HPRT1, for 'all stomach tissues'; and ACTB-18S rRNA, for 'all stomach cell lines and tissues'. NormFinder also identified B2M as the best reference gene for 'stomach cancer cell lines', RPL29-B2M for 'all stomach tissues', and 18S rRNA-ACTB for 'all stomach cell lines and tissues'. The comparisons of normalized expression of the target gene, GPNMB, showed different interpretation of target gene expression depend on best single reference gene or combination.
This study validated RPL29 and RPL29-B2M as the best single reference genes and combination, for RT-qPCR analysis of 'all stomach tissues', and B2M and B2M-GAPDH as the best single reference gene and combination, for 'stomach cancer cell lines'. Use of these validated reference genes should provide more exact interpretation of differential gene expressions at transcription level in stomach cancer.
PMCID: PMC2887403  PMID: 20507635
6.  Quality Control of RNA Preservation and Extraction from Paraffin-Embedded Tissue: Implications for RT-PCR and Microarray Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70714.
Analysis of RNA isolated from fixed and paraffin-embedded tissues is widely used in biomedical research and molecular pathological diagnostics. We have performed a comprehensive and systematic investigation of the impact of factors in the pre-analytical workflow, such as different fixatives, fixation time, RNA extraction method and storage of tissues in paraffin blocks, on several downstream reactions including complementary DNA (cDNA) synthesis, quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and microarray hybridization. We compared the effects of routine formalin fixation with the non-crosslinking, alcohol-based Tissue Tek Xpress Molecular Fixative (TTXMF, Sakura Finetek), and cryopreservation as gold standard for molecular analyses. Formalin fixation introduced major changes into microarray gene expression data and led to marked gene-to-gene variations in delta-ct values of qRT-PCR. We found that qRT-PCR efficiency and gene-to-gene variations were mainly attributed to differences in the efficiency of cDNA synthesis as the most sensitive step. These differences could not be reliably detected by quality assessment of total RNA isolated from formalin-fixed tissues by electrophoresis or spectrophotometry. Although RNA from TTXMF fixed samples was as fragmented as RNA from formalin fixed samples, much higher cDNA yield and lower ct-values were obtained in qRT-PCR underlining the negative impact of crosslinking by formalin. In order to better estimate the impact of pre-analytical procedures such as fixation on the reliability of downstream analysis, we applied a qRT-PCR-based assay using amplicons of different length and an assay measuring the efficiency of cDNA generation. Together these two assays allowed better quality assessment of RNA extracted from fixed and paraffin-embedded tissues and should be used to supplement quality scores derived from automated electrophoresis. A better standardization of the pre-analytical workflow, application of additional quality controls and detailed sample information would markedly improve the comparability and reliability of molecular studies based on formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue samples.
PMCID: PMC3729557  PMID: 23936242
7.  Decentral gene expression analysis: analytical validation of the Endopredict genomic multianalyte breast cancer prognosis test 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:456.
EndoPredict (EP) is a clinically validated multianalyte gene expression test to predict distant metastasis in ER-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer treated with endocrine therapy alone. The test is based on the combined analysis of 12 genes in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue by reverse transcription-quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR). Recently, it was shown that EP is feasible for reliable decentralized assessment of gene expression. The aim of this study was the analytical validation of the performance characteristics of the assay and its verification in a molecular-pathological routine laboratory.
Gene expression values to calculate the EP score were assayed by one-step RT-qPCR using RNA from FFPE tumor tissue. Limit of blank, limit of detection, linear range, and PCR efficiency were assessed for each of the 12 PCR assays using serial samples dilutions. Different breast cancer samples were used to evaluate RNA input range, precision and inter-laboratory variability.
PCR assays were linear up to Cq values between 35.1 and 37.2. Amplification efficiencies ranged from 75% to 101%. The RNA input range without considerable change of the EP score was between 0.16 and 18.5 ng/μl. Analysis of precision (variation of day, day time, instrument, operator, reagent lots) resulted in a total noise (standard deviation) of 0.16 EP score units on a scale from 0 to 15. The major part of the total noise (SD 0.14) was caused by the replicate-to-replicate noise of the PCR assays (repeatability) and was not associated with different operating conditions (reproducibility). Performance characteristics established in the manufacturer’s laboratory were verified in a routine molecular pathology laboratory. Comparison of 10 tumor samples analyzed in two different laboratories showed a Pearson coefficient of 0.995 and a mean deviation of 0.15 score units.
The EP test showed reproducible performance characteristics with good precision and negligible laboratory-to-laboratory variation. This study provides further evidence that the EP test is suitable for decentralized testing in specialized molecular pathological laboratories instead of a reference laboratory. This is a unique feature and a technical advance in comparison with existing RNA-based prognostic multigene expression tests.
PMCID: PMC3534340  PMID: 23039280
Breast cancer; Prognostic multigene expression test; Analytical validation; PCR; Pathology
8.  HER2 and TOP2A in high-risk early breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant epirubicin-based dose-dense sequential chemotherapy 
HER2 and TOP2A parameters (gene status, mRNA and protein expression) have individually been associated with the outcome of patients treated with anthracyclines. The aim of this study was to comprehensively evaluate the prognostic/predictive significance of the above parameters in early, high-risk breast cancer patients treated with epirubicin-based, dose-dense sequential adjuvant chemotherapy.
In a series of 352 breast carcinoma tissues from patients that had been post-operatively treated with epirubicin-CMF with or without paclitaxel, we assessed HER2 and TOP2A gene status (chromogenic in situ hybridization), mRNA expression (quantitative reverse transcription PCR), as well as HER2 and TopoIIa protein expression (immunohistochemistry).
HER2 and TOP2A amplification did not share the same effects on their downstream molecules, with consistent patterns observed in HER2 mRNA and protein expression according to HER2 amplification (all parameters strongly inter-related, p values < 0.001), but inconsistent patterns in the case of TOP2A. TOP2A gene amplification (7% of all cases) was not related to TOP2A mRNA and TopoIIa protein expression, while TOP2A mRNA and TopoIIa protein were strongly related to each other (p < 0.001). Hence, TOP2A amplified tumors did not correspond to tumors with high TOP2A mRNA or TopoIIa protein expression, while the latter were characterized by high Ki67 scores (p = 0.003 and p < 0.001, respectively). Multivariate analysis adjusted for nodal involvement, hormone receptor status, Ki67 score and HER2/TOP2A parameters revealed HER2/TOP2A co-amplification (21.2% of HER2 amplified tumors) as an independent favorable prognostic factor for DFS (HR = 0.13, 95% CI: 0.02-0.96, p = 0.046); in contrast, increased HER2/TOP2A mRNA co-expression was identified as an independent adverse prognostic factor for both DFS (HR = 2.41, 95% CI: 1.31-4.42, p = 0.005) and OS (HR = 2.83, 95% CI: 1.42-5.63, p = 0.003), while high TOP2A mRNA expression was an independent adverse prognostic factor for OS (HR = 2.06, 95% CI: 1.23-3.46, p = 0.006). None of the parameters tested was associated with response to paclitaxel.
This study confirms the favorable prognostic value of HER2/TOP2A co-amplification and the adverse prognostic value of high TOP2A mRNA expression extending it to the adjuvant treatment setting in early high-risk breast cancer. The strong adverse prognostic impact of high HER2/TOP2A mRNA co-expression needs further validation in studies designed to evaluate markers predictive for anthracyclines.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12611000506998.
PMCID: PMC3275536  PMID: 22240029
HER2; TOP2A; gene amplification; CISH; mRNA expression; early breast cancer; randomized study; anthracyclines; taxanes
9.  Optimisation of Reference Genes for Gene-Expression Analysis in a Rabbit Model of Left Ventricular Diastolic Dysfunction 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89331.
Left ventricular diastolic dysfunction (LVDD) is characterized by the disturbance of ventricle’s performance due to its abnormal relaxation or to its increased stiffness during the diastolic phase. The molecular mechanisms underlying LVDD remain unknown. We aimed to identify normalization genes for accurate gene-expression analysis of LVDD using quantitative real-time PCR (RT-PCR) in a new rabbit model of LVDD. Eighteen rabbits were fed with a normal diet (n = 7) or a 0.5% cholesterol-enriched diet supplemented with vitamin D2 (n = 11) for an average of 14.5 weeks. We validated the presence of LVDD in this model using echocardiography for diastolic function assessment. RT-PCR was performed using cDNA derived from left ventricle samples to measure the stability of 10 genes as candidate reference genes (Gapdh, Hprt1, Ppia, Sdha, Rpl5, Actb, Eef1e1, Ywhaz, Pgk1, and G6pd). Using geNorm analysis, we report that Sdha, Gapdh and Hprt1 genes had the highest stability (M <0.2). By contrast, Hprt1 and Rpl5 genes were found to represent the best combination for normalization when using the Normfinder algorithm (stability value of 0.042). Comparison of both normalization strategies highlighted an increase of natriuretic peptides (Bnp and Anp), monocytes chemotactic protein-1 (Mcp-1) and NADPH oxidase subunit (Nox-2) mRNA expressions in ventricle samples of the hypercholesterolemic rabbits compared to controls (P<0.05). This increase correlates with LVDD echocardiographic parameters and most importantly it molecularly validates the presence of the disease in our model. This is the first study emphasizing the selection of stable reference genes for RT-PCR normalization in a rabbit model of LVDD.
PMCID: PMC3928441  PMID: 24558494
10.  Identification of Appropriate Reference Genes for Human Mesenchymal Cells during Expansion and Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73792.
Quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) is an extremely powerful technique for monitoring gene expression. The quantity of the messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNA) of interest should be normalized using a reference gene, in order to avoid unreliable results originated by the obtained RNA quality and quantity, manipulation errors and inhibitory contaminants. A reference gene is any gene that is stably and consistently expressed under the conditions being studied. Completely false data can be generated if a reference gene is not chosen adequately.
In the present study, we compared expression levels of five putative reference genes (HPRT1, ACTB, GAPDH, RPL13A and B2M) in primary cultures of four different human cells: mesenchymal stromal cells obtained from bone marrow, adipose tissue or umbilical cord Whartońs Jelly, and dermal fibroblasts, under different expansion and differentiation conditions. We observed that reference genes are not the same for different cells under the same culture conditions.
Most stable reference genes under our experimental conditions were: RPL13A for adipose tissue- and Whartońs Jelly-derived mesenchymal stromal cells, and HPRT1 for bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells and dermal fibroblasts. ACTB was the most unstable gene when evaluating adipose tissue- and Whartońs Jelly-derived mesenchymal stromal cells, whilst GAPDH and B2M were the most unstable genes for bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells and dermal fibroblasts, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3759474  PMID: 24023904
11.  Identification of Suitable Reference Genes for Real-Time PCR Analysis of Statin-Treated Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51547.
Proper data normalization in quantitative real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is of critical importance for reliable mRNA expression analysis. Due to a diversity in putative reference genes expression stability in different in vitro models, a validation of an internal control gene should be made for each particular tissue or cell type and every specific experimental design. A few approaches have been proposed for reference gene selection, including pair-wise comparison approach and model-based approach. In this article we have assessed the expression stability of eight putative reference genes: ACTB, B2M, GADD45A, GAPDH, HPRT1, PES1, PSMC4, YWHAZ, in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) treated with different statins and with TNF-α. The analysis was performed with three reference gene validation programs: geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper. We have shown that hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase 1 gene (HPRT1) and tyrosine 3-monooxygenase/tryptophan 5-monooxygenase activation protein, zeta polypeptide gene (YWHAZ) are the most stably expressed genes among the analyzed ones. Furthermore, our results show that β-actin gene (ACTB) is downregulated by statins and thus should not be used as a normalizing gene in a discussed experimental setup. A ranking of candidate reference genes stability values is provided and might serve as a valuable guide for future gene expression studies in endothelial cells. This is the first report on reference gene selection for RT-qPCR applications in statin-treated HUVEC model.
PMCID: PMC3519707  PMID: 23251572
12.  Evaluation of suitable reference genes for gene expression studies in bronchoalveolar lavage cells from horses with inflammatory airway disease 
The stability of reference genes has a tremendous effect on the results of relative quantification of genes expression by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Equine Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) is a common condition often treated with corticosteroids. The diagnosis of IAD is based on clinical signs and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid cytology. The aim of this study was to identify reference genes with the most stable mRNA expression in the BAL cells of horses with IAD irrespective of corticosteroids treatment.
The expression stability of seven candidate reference genes (B2M, HPRT, GAPDH, ACTB, UBB, RPL32, SDHA) was determined by qRT-PCR in BAL samples taken pre- and post- treatment with dexamethasone and fluticasone propionate for two weeks in 7 horses with IAD. Primers' efficiencies were calculated using LinRegPCR. NormFinder, GeNorm and qBasePlus softwares were used to rank the genes according to their stability. GeNorm was also used to determine both the ideal number and the best combination of reference genes. GAPDH was found to be the most stably expressed gene with the three softwares. GeNorm ranked B2M as the least stable gene. Based on the pair-wise variation cut-off value determined with GeNorm, the number of genes required for optimal normalization was four and included GAPDH, SDHA, HPRT and RPL32.
The geometric mean of GAPDH, HPRT, SDHA and RPL32 is recommended for accurate normalization of quantitative PCR data in BAL cells of horses with IAD treated with corticosteroids. If only one reference gene can be used, then GAPDH is recommended.
PMCID: PMC3039571  PMID: 21272375
13.  Reverse transcription quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction reference genes in the spared nerve injury model of neuropathic pain: validation and literature search 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:266.
The reverse transcription quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is a widely used, highly sensitive laboratory technique to rapidly and easily detect, identify and quantify gene expression. Reliable RT-qPCR data necessitates accurate normalization with validated control genes (reference genes) whose expression is constant in all studied conditions. This stability has to be demonstrated.
We performed a literature search for studies using quantitative or semi-quantitative PCR in the rat spared nerve injury (SNI) model of neuropathic pain to verify whether any reference genes had previously been validated. We then analyzed the stability over time of 7 commonly used reference genes in the nervous system – specifically in the spinal cord dorsal horn and the dorsal root ganglion (DRG). These were: Actin beta (Actb), Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), ribosomal proteins 18S (18S), L13a (RPL13a) and L29 (RPL29), hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase 1 (HPRT1) and hydroxymethylbilane synthase (HMBS). We compared the candidate genes and established a stability ranking using the geNorm algorithm. Finally, we assessed the number of reference genes necessary for accurate normalization in this neuropathic pain model.
We found GAPDH, HMBS, Actb, HPRT1 and 18S cited as reference genes in literature on studies using the SNI model. Only HPRT1 and 18S had been once previously demonstrated as stable in RT-qPCR arrays. All the genes tested in this study, using the geNorm algorithm, presented gene stability values (M-value) acceptable enough for them to qualify as potential reference genes in both DRG and spinal cord. Using the coefficient of variation, 18S failed the 50% cut-off with a value of 61% in the DRG. The two most stable genes in the dorsal horn were RPL29 and RPL13a; in the DRG they were HPRT1 and Actb. Using a 0.15 cut-off for pairwise variations we found that any pair of stable reference gene was sufficient for the normalization process.
In the rat SNI model, we validated and ranked Actb, RPL29, RPL13a, HMBS, GAPDH, HPRT1 and 18S as good reference genes in the spinal cord. In the DRG, 18S did not fulfill stability criteria. The combination of any two stable reference genes was sufficient to provide an accurate normalization.
PMCID: PMC3717014  PMID: 23841944
Neuropathic pain; Spared nerve injury; Reference gene; RT-qPCR; Rat
14.  A multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay for quality assessment of RNA extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues 
BMC Biotechnology  2010;10:89.
RNA extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples is chemically modified and degraded, which compromises its use in gene expression studies. Most of the current approaches for RNA quality assessment are not suitable for FFPE derived RNA.
We have developed a single-tube multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay specifically designed to evaluate RNA extracted from FFPE tissues for mRNA integrity and performance in reverse transcription - quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) assays. This single-tube quality control (QC) assay minimises the amount of RNA used in quality control. mRNA integrity and the suitability of RNA for RT-PCR is evaluated by the multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay using the TBP gene mRNA as the target sequence. The RT-PCR amplicon sizes, 92, 161, 252 and 300 bp, cover a range of amplicon sizes suitable for a wide range of RT-qPCR assays. The QC assay was used to evaluate RNA prepared by two different protocols for extracting total RNA from needle microdissected FFPE breast tumour samples. The amplification products were analysed by gel electrophoresis where the spectrum of amplicon sizes indicated the level of RNA degradation and thus the suitability of the RNA for PCR. The ability of the multiplex endpoint RT-PCR QC assay to identify FFPE samples with an adequate RNA quality was validated by examining the Cq values of an RT-qPCR assay with an 87 bp amplicon.
The multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay is well suited for the determination of the quality of FFPE derived RNAs, to identify which RT-PCR assays they are suitable for, and is also applicable to assess non-FFPE RNA for gene expression studies. Furthermore, the assay can also be used for the evaluation of RNA extraction protocols from FFPE samples.
PMCID: PMC3016381  PMID: 21162754
15.  Selection of reference genes for normalization of quantitative real-time PCR in organ culture of the rat and rabbit intervertebral disc 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:162.
The accuracy of quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) is often influenced by experimental artifacts, resulting in erroneous expression profiles of target genes. The practice of employing normalization using a reference gene significantly improves reliability and its applicability to molecular biology. However, selection of an ideal reference gene(s) is of critical importance to discern meaningful results. The aim of this study was to evaluate the stability of seven potential reference genes (Actb, GAPDH, 18S rRNA, CycA, Hprt1, Ywhaz, and Pgk1) and identify most stable gene(s) for application in tissue culture research using the rat and rabbit intervertebral disc (IVD).
In vitro, four genes (Hprt1, CycA, GAPDH, and 18S rRNA) in rat IVD tissue and five genes (CycA, Hprt1, Actb, Pgk1, and Ywhaz) in rabbit IVD tissue were determined as most stable for up to 14 days in culture. Pair-wise variation analysis indicated that combination of Hprt1 and CycA in rat and the combination of Hprt1, CycA, and Actb in rabbit may most stable reference gene candidates for IVD tissue culture.
Our results indicate that Hprt1 and CycA are the most stable reference gene candidates for rat and rabbit IVD culture studies. In rabbit IVD, Actb could be an additional gene employed in conjunction with Hprt1 and CycA. Selection of optimal reference gene candidate(s) should be a pertinent exercise before employment of PCR outcome measures for biomedical research.
PMCID: PMC3118343  PMID: 21615931
16.  RNA pre-amplification enables large-scale RT-qPCR gene-expression studies on limiting sample amounts 
BMC Research Notes  2009;2:235.
The quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) is a widely utilized method for gene-expression analysis. However, insufficient material often compromises large-scale gene-expression studies. The aim of this study is to evaluate an RNA pre-amplification method to produce micrograms of cDNA as input for qPCR.
The linear isothermal Ribo-SPIA pre-amplification method (WT-Ovation; NuGEN) was first evaluated by measuring the expression of 20 genes in RNA samples from six neuroblastoma cell lines and of 194 genes in two commercially available reference RNA samples before and after pre-amplification, and subsequently applied on a large panel of 738 RNA samples extracted from neuroblastoma tumours. All RNA samples were evaluated for RNA integrity and purity. Starting from 5 to 50 nanograms of total RNA the sample pre-amplification method was applied, generating approximately 5 microgams of cDNA, sufficient to measure more than 1000 target genes. The results obtained from this study show a constant yield of pre-amplified cDNA independent of the amount of input RNA; preservation of differential gene-expression after pre-amplification without introduction of substantial bias; no co-amplification of contaminating genomic DNA; no necessity to purify the pre-amplified material; and finally the importance of good RNA quality to enable pre-amplification.
Application of this unbiased and easy to use sample pre-amplification technology offers great advantage to generate sufficient material for diagnostic and prognostic work-up and enables large-scale qPCR gene-expression studies using limited amounts of sample material.
PMCID: PMC2789097  PMID: 19930725
17.  Effects of Tissue Handling on RNA Integrity and Microarray Measurements From Resected Breast Cancers 
Reliable stability and yield of RNA from breast cancer tissues are important for biobanking, clinical trials, and diagnostic testing.
Aliquots of fresh primary tumor tissue from 17 surgically resected invasive breast cancers were placed into RNAlater at room temperature after tumor removal (baseline) and up to 3 hours thereafter or were snap frozen at baseline and 40 minutes thereafter. Samples were stored at −80°C until gene expression profiling with Affymetrix Human Gene U133A microarrays. We evaluated the effects of cold ischemic time (the time from tumor specimen removal to sample preservation) and sample preservation method on RNA yield, Bioanalyzer-based RNA integrity number, microarray-based 3′/5′ expression ratios for assessing transcript integrity, and microarray-based measurement of single-gene and multigene expression signatures. The statistical significance of the effects was assessed using linear mixed effects regression models. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Sample preservation in RNAlater statistically significantly improved RNA integrity compared with snap freezing as assessed by the RNA integrity number, which increased from 7.31 to 8.13 units (difference = 0.82 units, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.53 to 1.11 units, P < .001), and RNA yield, which increased threefold from 8.9 to 28.6 μg (difference = 19.7 μg, 95% CI = 14.1 to 25.3 μg, P < .001). Prolonged cold ischemic delay at room temperature before sample stabilization decreased the RNA integrity number by 0.12 units/h (95% CI = 0.02 to 0.23 units/h) compared with a projected average RNA integrity number of 7.39 if no delays were present (P = .008) and decreased the RNA yield by 1.5 μg/h (95% CI = 0 to 4 μg/h) from a baseline mean RNA yield of 33.5 μg if no delays were present (P = .019). Prolonged cold ischemia statistically significantly increased the 3′/5′ ratio of control gene transcripts, particularly of STAT1 (P < .001). Snap freezing statistically significantly increased the 3′/5′ ratio of three control transcripts (ACTB, GAPDH, and 18S rRNA). Expression levels of single genes and multigene signatures for breast cancer were largely unaffected by sample preservation method or cold ischemia.
Sample preservation in RNAlater improves RNA yield and quality, whereas cold ischemia increases RNA fragmentation as measured by the 3′/5′ expression ratio of control genes. However, expression levels of single genes and multigene signatures that are of diagnostic relevance in breast cancer were mostly unaffected by sample preservation method or prolonged cold ischemic duration.
PMCID: PMC3243675  PMID: 22034635
18.  Identification of cell-specific patterns of reference gene stability in quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction studies of embryonic, placental and neural stem models of prenatal ethanol exposure 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2013;47(2):109-120.
Identification of the transcriptional networks disrupted by prenatal ethanol exposure remains a core requirement to better understanding the molecular mechanisms of alcohol-induced teratogenesis. In this regard, quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) has emerged as an essential technique in our efforts to characterize alterations in gene expression brought on by exposure to alcohol. However, many publications continue to report the utilization of inappropriate methods of qPCR normalization, and for many in vitro models, no consistent set of empirically tested normalization controls have been identified. In the present study, we sought to identify a group of candidate reference genes for use within studies of alcohol exposed embryonic, placental, and neurosphere stem cells under both conditions maintaining stemness as well as throughout in vitro differentiation. To this end, we surveyed the recent literature and compiled a short list of fourteen candidate genes commonly used as normalization controls in qPCR studies of gene expression. This list included: Actb, B2m, Gapdh, Gusb, H2afz, Hk2, Hmbs, Hprt, Mrpl1, Pgk1, Ppia, Sdha, Tbp, and Ywhaz. From these studies, we find no single candidate gene was consistently refractory to the influence of alcohol nor completely stable throughout in vitro differentiation. Accordingly, we propose normalizing qPCR measurements to the geometric mean CT values obtained for three independent reference mRNAs as a reliable method to accurately interpret qPCR data and assess alterations in gene expression within alcohol treated cultures. Highlighting the importance of careful and empirical reference gene selection, the commonly used reference gene Actb was often amongst the least stable candidate genes tested. In fact, it would not serve as a valid normalization control in many cases. Data presented here will aid in the design of future experiments using stem cells to study the transcriptional processes driving differentiation, and model the developmental impact of teratogens.
PMCID: PMC3653297  PMID: 23317542
Reference gene; Normalization; Alcohol; Quantitative RT-PCR; Real-time PCR; Stem cells
19.  Validation of putative reference genes for gene expression studies in human hepatocellular carcinoma using real-time quantitative RT-PCR 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:350.
Reference genes, which are often referred to as housekeeping genes are frequently used to normalize mRNA levels between different samples in quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The selection of reference genes is critical for gene expression studies because the expression of these genes may vary among tissues or cells and may change under certain circumstances. Here, a systematic evaluation of six putative reference genes for gene expression studies in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is presented.
Six genes, beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), hydroxymethyl-bilane synthase (HMBS), hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl-transferase 1 (HPRT1), succinate dehydrogenase complex, subunit A (SDHA) and ubiquitin C (UBC), with distinct functional characteristics and expression patterns were evaluated by qRT-PCR. Inhibitory substances in RNA samples were quantitatively assessed and controlled using an external RNA control. The stability of selected reference genes was analyzed using both geNorm and NormFinder software.
HMBS and GAPDH were identified as the optimal reference genes for normalizing gene expression data between paired tumoral and adjacent non-tumoral tissues derived from patients with HCC. HMBS, GAPDH and UBC were identified to be suitable for the normalization of gene expression data among tumor tissues; whereas the combination of HMBS, B2M, SDHA and GAPDH was suitable for normalizing gene expression data among five liver cancer cell lines, namely Hep3B, HepG2, HuH7, SK-HEP-1 and SNU-182. The determined gene stability was increased after exclusion of RNA samples containing relatively higher inhibitory substances.
Of six genes studied, HMBS was found to be the single best reference gene for gene expression studies in HCC. The appropriate choice of combination of more than one reference gene to improve qRT-PCR accuracy depends on the kind of liver tissues or cells under investigation. Quantitative assessment and control of qRT-PCR inhibitors using an external RNA control can reduce the variation of qRT-PCR assay and facilitate the evaluation of gene stability. Our results may facilitate the choice of reference genes for expression studies in HCC.
PMCID: PMC2607287  PMID: 19036168
20.  Internal control genes for quantitative RT-PCR expression analysis in mouse osteoblasts, osteoclasts and macrophages 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:410.
Real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR) is a powerful technique capable of accurately quantitating mRNA expression levels over a large dynamic range. This makes qPCR the most widely used method for studying quantitative gene expression. An important aspect of qPCR is selecting appropriate controls or normalization factors to account for any differences in starting cDNA quantities between samples during expression studies. Here, we report on the selection of a concise set of housekeeper genes for the accurate normalization of quantitative gene expression data in differentiating osteoblasts, osteoclasts and macrophages. We implemented the use of geNorm, an algorithm that determines the suitability of genes to function as housekeepers by assessing expression stabilities. We evaluated the expression stabilities of 18S, ACTB, B2M, GAPDH, HMBS and HPRT1 genes.
Our analyses revealed that 18S and GAPDH were regulated during osteoblast differentiation and are not suitable for use as reference genes. The most stably expressed genes in osteoblasts were ACTB, HMBS and HPRT1 and their geometric average constitutes a suitable normalization factor upon which gene expression data can be normalized. In macrophages, 18S and GAPDH were the most variable genes while HMBS and B2M were the most stably expressed genes. The geometric average of HMBS and B2M expression levels forms a suitable normalization factor to account for potential differences in starting cDNA quantities during gene expression analysis in macrophages. The expression stabilities of the six candidate reference genes in osteoclasts were, on average, more variable than that observed in macrophages but slightly less variable than those seen in osteoblasts. The two most stably expressed genes in osteoclasts were HMBS and B2M and the genes displaying the greatest levels of variability were 18S and GAPDH. Notably, 18S and GAPDH were the two most variably expressed control genes in all three cell types. The geometric average of HMBS, B2M and ACTB creates an appropriate normalization factor for gene expression studies in osteoclasts.
We have identified concise sets of genes suitable to use as normalization factors for quantitative real-time RT-PCR gene expression studies in osteoblasts, osteoclasts and macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3204251  PMID: 21996334
21.  Suitable reference genes for real-time PCR in human HBV-related hepatocellular carcinoma with different clinical prognoses 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:49.
Housekeeping genes are routinely used as endogenous references to account for experimental differences in gene expression assays. However, recent reports show that they could be de-regulated in different diseases, model animals, or even under varied experimental conditions, which may lead to unreliable results and consequently misinterpretations. This study focused on the selection of suitable reference genes for quantitative PCR in human hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with different clinical outcomes.
We evaluated 6 commonly used housekeeping genes' expression levels in 108 HBV-related HCCs' matched tumor and non-tomor tissue samples with different clinical outcomes and 26 normal liver specimens by real-time PCR. The expression stability of the 6 genes was compared using the software programs geNorm and NormFinder. To show the impact of reference genes on data analysis, we took PGK1 as a target gene normalized by each reference gene, and performed one-way ANOVA and the equivalence test.
With the geNorm and NormFinder software programs, analysis of TBP and HPRT1 showed the best stability in all tissue samples, while 18s and ACTB were less stable. When 18s or ACTB was used for normalization, no significant difference of PGK1 expression (p > 0.05) was found among HCC tissues with and without metastasis, and normal liver specimens; however, dramatically differences (p < 0.001) were observed when either TBP or the combination of TBP and HPRT1 were selected as reference genes.
TBP and HPRT1 are the most reliable reference genes for q-PCR normalization in HBV-related HCC specimens. However, the well-used ACTB and 18S are not suitable, which actually lead to the misinterpretation of the results in gene expression analysis.
PMCID: PMC2644316  PMID: 19200351
22.  Gene expression variation between distinct areas of breast cancer measured from paraffin-embedded tissue cores 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:343.
Diagnosis and prognosis in breast cancer are mainly based on histology and immunohistochemistry of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) material. Recently, gene expression analysis was shown to elucidate the biological variance between tumors and molecular markers were identified that led to new classification systems that provided better prognostic and predictive parameters. Archived FFPE samples represent an ideal source of tissue for translational research, as millions of tissue blocks exist from routine diagnostics and from clinical studies. These should be exploited to provide clinicians with more accurate prognostic and predictive information. Unfortunately, RNA derived from FFPE material is partially degraded and chemically modified and reliable gene expression measurement has only become successful after implementing novel and optimized procedures for RNA isolation, demodification and detection.
In this study we used tissue cylinders as known from the construction of tissue microarrays. RNA was isolated with a robust protocol recently developed for RNA derived from FFPE material. Gene expression was measured by quantitative reverse transcription PCR.
Sixteen tissue blocks from 7 patients diagnosed with multiple histological subtypes of breast cancer were available for this study. After verification of appropriate localization, sufficient RNA yield and quality, 30 tissue cores were available for gene expression measurement on TaqMan® Low Density Arrays (16 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), 8 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and 6 normal tissue), and 14 tissue cores were lost. Gene expression values were used to calculate scores representing the proliferation status (PRO), the estrogen receptor status and the HER2 status. The PRO scores measured from entire sections were similar to PRO scores determined from IDC tissue cores. Scores determined from normal tissue cores consistently revealed lower PRO scores than cores derived from IDC or DCIS of the same block or from different blocks of the same patient.
We have developed optimized protocols for RNA isolation from histologically distinct areas. RNA prepared from FFPE tissue cores is suitable for gene expression measurement by quantitative PCR. Distinct molecular scores could be determined from different cores of the same tumor specimen.
PMCID: PMC2596175  PMID: 19032762
23.  Normalizing to GADPH jeopardises correct quantification of gene expression in ovarian tumours – IPO8 and RPL4 are reliable reference genes 
To ensure a correct interpretation of results obtained with quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), it is critical to normalize to a reference gene with stable mRNA expression in the tissue of interest. GADPH is widely used as a reference gene in ovarian tumour studies, although lacking tissue-specific stability. The aim of this study was to identify alternative suitable reference genes for RT-qPCR studies on benign, borderline, and malignant ovarian tumours.
We assayed mRNA levels for 13 potential reference genes – ABL1, ACTB, CDKN1A, GADPH, GUSB, HPRT1, HSP90AB, IPO8, PPIA, RPL30, RPL4, RPLPO, and TBP –with RT-qPCR in 42 primary ovarian tumours, using commercially pre-designed RT-qPCR probes. Expression stability was subsequently analysed with four different statistical programs (GeNorm, NormFinder, BestKeeper, and the Equivalence test).
Expression of IPO8, RPL4, TBP, RPLPO, and ACTB had the least variation in expression across the tumour samples according to GeNorm, NormFinder, and BestKeeper. The Equivalence test found variation in expression within a 3-fold expression change between tumour groups for: IPO8, RPL40, RPL30, GUSB, TBP, RPLPO, ACTB, ABL1, and CDKN1A. However, only IPO8 satisfied at a 2-fold change as a cut-off. Overall, IPO8 and RPL4 had the highest, whereas GADPH and HPRT1 the lowest expression stability. Employment of suitable reference genes (IPO8, RPL4) in comparison with unsuitable ones (GADPH, HPRT1), demonstrated divergent influence on the mRNA expression pattern of our target genes − GPER and uPAR.
We found IPO8 and RPL4 to be suitable reference genes for normalization of target gene expression in benign, borderline, and malignant ovarian tumours. Moreover, IPO8 can be recommended as a single reference gene. Neither GADPH nor HPRT1 should be used as reference genes in studies on ovarian tumour tissue.
PMCID: PMC3766134  PMID: 24001041
24.  Preamplification techniques for real-time RT-PCR analyses of endomyocardial biopsies 
Due to the limited RNA amounts from endomyocardial biopsies (EMBs) and low expression levels of certain genes, gene expression analyses by conventional real-time RT-PCR are restrained in EMBs. We applied two preamplification techniques, the TaqMan® PreAmp Master Mix (T-PreAmp) and a multiplex preamplification following a sequence specific reverse transcription (SSRT-PreAmp).
T-PreAmp encompassing 92 gene assays with 14 cycles resulted in a mean improvement of 7.24 ± 0.33 Ct values. The coefficients for inter- (1.89 ± 0.48%) and intra-assay variation (0.85 ± 0.45%) were low for all gene assays tested (<4%). The PreAmp uniformity values related to the reference gene CDKN1B for 91 of the investigated gene assays (except for CD56) were -0.38 ± 0.33, without significant differences between self-designed and ABI inventoried Taqman® gene assays. Only two of the tested Taqman® ABI inventoried gene assays (HPRT-ABI and CD56) did not maintain PreAmp uniformity levels between -1.5 and +1.5. In comparison, the SSRT-PreAmp tested on 8 self-designed gene assays yielded higher Ct improvement (9.76 ± 2.45), however was not as robust regarding the maintenance of PreAmp uniformity related to HPRT-CCM (-3.29 ± 2.40; p < 0.0001), and demonstrated comparable intra-assay CVs (1.47 ± 0.74), albeit higher inter-assay CVs (5.38 ± 2.06; p = 0.01). Comparing EMBs from each 10 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and inflammatory cardiomyopathy (DCMi), T-PreAmp real-time RT-PCR analyses revealed differential regulation regarding 27 (30%) of the investigated 90 genes related to both HPRT-CCM and CDKN1B. Ct values of HPRT and CDKN1B did not differ in equal RNA amounts from explanted DCM and donor hearts.
In comparison to the SSRT-PreAmp, T-PreAmp enables a relatively simple workflow, and results in a robust PreAmp of multiple target genes (at least 92 gene assays as tested here) by a mean Ct improvement around 7 cycles, and in a lower inter-assay variance in RNA derived from EMBs. Preliminary analyses comparing EMBs from DCM and DCMi patients, revealing differential regulation regarding 30% of the investigated genes, confirm that T-PreAmp is a suitable tool to perform gene expression analyses in EMBs, expanding gene expression investigations with the limited RNA/cDNA amounts derived from EMBs. CDKN1B, in addition to its function as a reference gene for the calculation of PreAmp uniformity, might serve as a suitable housekeeping gene for real-time RT-PCR analyses of myocardial tissues.
PMCID: PMC2262094  PMID: 18194512
25.  Expression profiles of the pluripotency marker gene POU5F1 and validation of reference genes in rabbit oocytes and preimplantation stage embryos 
The surge in the number of gene expression studies and tendencies to increase the quality of analysis have necessitated the identification of stable reference genes. Although rabbits are classical experimental model animals, stable reference genes have not been identified for normalization. The aims of this study were to compare the expression profiles of the widely used reference genes in rabbit oocytes and preimplantation stage embryos, and to select and validate stable ones to use as reference.
Quantitative real time PCR method was used to evaluate 13 commonly used references (Actb, Gapdh, Hprt1, H2afz, Ubc, Ppia, Eef1e1, Polr2a, Tbp, G6pdx, B2m, Pgk1, and Ywhaz) and POU5F1 (Oct4) genes. Expressions of these genes were examined in multiple individual embryos of seven different preimplantation developmental stages and embryo types (in vivo and in vitro). Initial analysis identified three genes (Ubc, Tbp, and B2m) close to the detection limit with irregular expression between the different stages. As variability impedes the selection of stable genes, these were excluded from further analysis. The expression levels of the remaining ten genes, varied according to developmental stage and embryo types. These genes were ranked using the geNorm software and finally the three most stable references (H2afz, Hprt1, and Ywhaz) were selected. Normalization factor was calculated (from the geometric averages of the three selected genes) and used to normalize the expressions of POU5F1 gene. The results showed the expected expression patterns of the POU5F1 during development.
Compared to the earlier studies with similar objectives, the comparison of large number of genes, the use of multiple individual embryos as compared to pools, and simultaneous analyses of in vitro and in vivo derived embryo samples were unique approaches in our study. Based on quantification, pattern and geNorm analyses, we found the three genes (H2afz, Hprt1, and Ywhaz) to be the most stable across developmental stages and embryo types, and the geometric averages of these genes can be used for appropriate normalization.
PMCID: PMC2507718  PMID: 18662377

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