Housekeeping genes as internal standards: use and limits

J Biotechnol. 1999 Oct 8;75(2-3):291-5. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1656(99)00163-7.


Quantitative studies are commonly realised in the biomedical research to compare RNA expression in different experimental or clinical conditions. These quantifications are performed through their comparison to the expression of the housekeeping gene transcripts like glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G3PDH), albumin, actins, tubulins, cyclophilin, hypoxantine phsophoribosyltransferase (HRPT), L32. 28S, and 18S rRNAs are also used as internal standards. In this paper, it is recalled that the commonly used internal standards can quantitatively vary in response to various factors. Possible variations are illustrated using three experimental examples. Preferred types of internal standards are then proposed for each of these samples and thereafter the general procedure concerning the choice of an internal standard and the way to manage its uses are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotechnology / standards
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes / genetics*
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 28S / genetics*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Ribosomal Proteins / biosynthesis


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 28S
  • Ribosomal Proteins
  • ribosomal protein L32
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases