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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Gene expression results in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated monocytes depend significantly on the choice of reference genes

Armin P Piehler1*, Runa M Grimholt1, Reidun Øvstebø1 and Jens P Berg12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Biochemistry and Clinical Pharmacology, Oslo University Hospital, Ulleval, 0407 Oslo, Norway

2 Faculty Division Ulleval University Hospital, University of Oslo, 0318 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-21

Published: 4 May 2010



Gene expression in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated monocytes is mainly studied by quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) using GAPDH (glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase) or ACTB (beta-actin) as reference gene for normalization. Expression of traditional reference genes has been shown to vary substantially under certain conditions leading to invalid results. To investigate whether traditional reference genes are stably expressed in LPS-stimulated monocytes or if RT-qPCR results are dependent on the choice of reference genes, we have assessed and evaluated gene expression stability of twelve candidate reference genes in this model system.


Twelve candidate reference genes were quantified by RT-qPCR in LPS-stimulated, human monocytes and evaluated using the programs geNorm, Normfinder and BestKeeper. geNorm ranked PPIB (cyclophilin B), B2M (beta-2-microglobulin) and PPIA (cyclophilin A) as the best combination for gene expression normalization in LPS-stimulated monocytes. Normfinder suggested TBP (TATA-box binding protein) and B2M as the best combination. Compared to these combinations, normalization using GAPDH alone resulted in significantly higher changes of TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) and IL10 (interleukin 10) expression. Moreover, a significant difference in TNF-α expression between monocytes stimulated with equimolar concentrations of LPS from N. meningitides and E. coli, respectively, was identified when using the suggested combinations of reference genes for normalization, but stayed unrecognized when employing a single reference gene, ACTB or GAPDH.


Gene expression levels in LPS-stimulated monocytes based on RT-qPCR results differ significantly when normalized to a single gene or a combination of stably expressed reference genes. Proper evaluation of reference gene stabiliy is therefore mandatory before reporting RT-qPCR results in LPS-stimulated monocytes.