Identification and validation of housekeeping genes for gene expression analysis of cancer stem cells

Silvia Lemma, Sofia Avnet, Manuela Salerno, Tokuhiro Chano, Nicola Baldini

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The characterization of cancer stem cell(CSC) subpopulation, through the comparison of the gene expression signature in respect to the native cancer cells, is particularly important for the identification of novel and more effective anticancer strategies. However, CSC have peculiar characteristics in terms of adhesion, growth, and metabolism that possibly implies a different modulation of the expression of the most commonly used housekeeping genes(HKG), like b-actin(ACTB). Although it is crucial to identify which are the most stable HKG genes to normalize the data derived from quantitative Real-Time PCR analysis to obtain robust and consistent results, an exhaustive validation of reference genes in CSC is still missing. Here, we isolated CSC spheres from different musculoskeletal sarcomas and carcinomas as a model to investigate on the stability of the mRNA expression of 15 commonly used HKG, in respect to the native cells. The selected genes were analysed for the variation coefficient and compared using the popular algorithms NormFinder and geNorm to evaluate stability ranking. As a result, we found that: 1) Tata Binding Protein(TBP), Tyrosine 3-monooxygenase/tryptophan 5-monooxygenase activation protein zeta polypeptide(YWHAZ), Peptidylprolyl isomerase A(PPIA), and Hydroxymethylbilane synthase(HMBS) are the most stable HKG for the comparison between CSC and native cells; 2) at least four reference genes should be considered for robust results; 3) the use of ACTB should not be recommended, 4) specific HKG should be considered for studies that are focused only on a specific tumor type, like sarcoma or carcinoma. Our results should be taken in consideration for all the studies of gene expression analysis of CSC, and will substantially contribute for future investigations aimed to identify novel anticancer therapy based on CSC targeting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149481
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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