Reference Genes for RT-qPCR Analysis of Environmentally and Developmentally Regulated Gene Expression in Alfalfa


Reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) is a highly sensitive technique that has become the standard for the analysis of differences in gene expression in response to experimental treatments or among genetic sources. The accuracy of the RT-qPCR results can be significantly affected by uncontrolled sources of variation that can be accounted for normalization with so-called reference genes stably expressed under various conditions. In this study we assessed the stability of 21 reference gene candidates in crowns of two alfalfa cultivars (Apica and Evolution) exposed to various environmental conditions (cold, water stress and photoperiod) and from above ground biomass of the cultivar Orca sampled at three developmental stages (vegetative, full bloom and mature pods). Candidates were selected based on their previous identification in other plant species or their stable expression in a differential hybridization of alfalfa ESTs with cDNA from non-acclimated and cold-acclimated alfalfa. Genes encoding ubiquitin protein ligase 2a (UBL-2a), actin depolymerizing factor (ADF) and retention in endoplasmic reticulum 1 protein (Rer1) were the most stable across experimental conditions. Conversely β-actin (Act), α-tubulin (Tub) and glyce-raldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) frequently used as “housekeeping genes” in gene expression studies showed poor stability. No more than two reference genes were required to normalize the gene expression data under each condition. Normalization of the expression of genes of interest with unstable reference genes led to observations that were conflicting with those made with validated reference genes and that were in some cases inconsistent with the current knowledge of the trait. The reference genes identified in this study are strong candidates for normalization of gene expression in cultivated alfalfa.

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Castonguay, Y. , Michaud, J. and Dubé, M. (2015) Reference Genes for RT-qPCR Analysis of Environmentally and Developmentally Regulated Gene Expression in Alfalfa. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 6, 132-143. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2015.61015.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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