Gene transcripts with invariant abundance during development and in the face of environmental stimuli are essential reference points for accurate gene expression analyses, such as RNA gel-blot analysis or quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR). An exceptionally large set of data from Affymetrix ATH1 whole-genome GeneChip studies provided the means to identify a new generation of reference genes with very stable expression levels in the model plant species Arabidopsis ( Arabidopsis thaliana ). Hundreds of Arabidopsis genes were found that outperform traditional reference genes in terms of expression stability throughout development and under a range of environmental conditions. Most of these were expressed at much lower levels than traditional reference genes, making them very suitable for normalization of gene expression over a wide range of transcript levels. Specific and efficient primers were developed for 22 genes and tested on a diverse set of 20 cDNA samples. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR confirmed superior expression stability and lower absolute expression levels for many of these genes, including genes encoding a protein phosphatase 2A subunit, a coatomer subunit, and an ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme. The developed PCR primers or hybridization probes for the novel reference genes will enable better normalization and quantification of transcript levels in Arabidopsis in the future.
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