Open Access Short Report

Selection of reference genes for normalization of quantitative real-time PCR in organ culture of the rat and rabbit intervertebral disc

Dongrim Seol12, Hyeonghun Choe12, Hongjun Zheng1, Keewoong Jang12, Prem S Ramakrishnan1*, Tae-Hong Lim2 and James A Martin1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Iowa, 1182 ML, Iowa city, IA 52242, USA

2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Iowa, 1402 SC, Iowa city, IA 52242, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:162  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-162

Published: 26 May 2011



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.