Control genes in quantitative molecular biological techniques: the variability of invariance

Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 Oct;130(3):281-9. doi: 10.1016/s1096-4959(01)00440-7.


The measurement of transcript levels constitutes the foundation of today's molecular genetics. Independent of the techniques used, quantifications are generally normalised using invariant control genes to account for sample handling, loading and experimental variation. All of the widely used control genes are evaluated, dissecting different methodological approaches and issues regarding the experimental context (e.g. development and tissue type). Furthermore, the major sources of error are highlighted when applying these techniques. Finally, different approaches undertaken to assess the invariance of control genes are critically analysed to generate a procedure that will help to discern the best control for novel experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cyclophilins / genetics
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes*
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • Humans
  • Molecular Biology / methods
  • Molecular Biology / standards
  • Protein Subunits
  • Reference Standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Ribosomes / chemistry
  • Ribosomes / genetics


  • Actins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases
  • Cyclophilins