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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Microarray analysis of relative gene expression stability for selection of internal reference genes in the rhesus macaque brain

Nigel C Noriega4*, Steven G Kohama1 and Henryk F Urbanski123

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, 505 NW 185th Avenue, Beaverton, OR 97006, USA

2 Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA

3 Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA

4 Department of Neurobiology Physiology and Behavior, Center for Neuroscience 1273, University of California, Davis, CA 95618, USA

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BMC Molecular Biology 2010, 11:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-11-47

Published: 21 June 2010



Normalization of gene expression data refers to the comparison of expression values using reference standards that are consistent across all conditions of an experiment. In PCR studies, genes designated as "housekeeping genes" have been used as internal reference genes under the assumption that their expression is stable and independent of experimental conditions. However, verification of this assumption is rarely performed. Here we assess the use of gene microarray analysis to facilitate selection of internal reference sequences with higher expression stability across experimental conditions than can be expected using traditional selection methods.

We recently demonstrated that relative gene expression from qRT-PCR data normalized using GAPDH, ALG9 and RPL13A expression values mirrored relative expression using quantile normalization in Robust Multichip Analysis (RMA) on the Affymetrix® GeneChip® rhesus Macaque Genome Array.

Having shown that qRT-PCR and Affymetrix® GeneChip® data from the same hormone replacement therapy (HRT) study yielded concordant results, we used quantile-normalized gene microarray data to identify the most stably expressed among probe sets for prospective internal reference genes across three brain regions from the HRT study and an additional study of normally menstruating rhesus macaques (cycle study). Gene selection was limited to 575 previously published human "housekeeping" genes. Twelve animals were used per study, and three brain regions were analyzed from each animal. Gene expression stabilities were determined using geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper software packages.


Sequences co-annotated for ribosomal protein S27a (RPS27A), and ubiquitin were among the most stably expressed under all conditions and selection criteria used for both studies. Higher annotation quality on the human GeneChip® facilitated more targeted analysis than could be accomplished using the rhesus GeneChip®. In the cycle study, multiple probe sets annotated for actin, gamma 1 (ACTG1) showed high signal intensity and were among the most stably expressed.


Using gene microarray analysis, we identified genes showing high expression stability under various sex-steroid environments in different regions of the rhesus macaque brain. Use of quantile-normalized microarray gene expression values represents an improvement over traditional methods of selecting internal reference genes for PCR analysis.