GAPDH as a housekeeping gene: analysis of GAPDH mRNA expression in a panel of 72 human tissues

Physiol Genomics. 2005 May 11;21(3):389-95. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00025.2005. Epub 2005 Mar 15.


Quantitative gene expression data are often normalized to the expression levels of control or so-called "housekeeping" genes. An inherent assumption in the use of housekeeping genes is that expression of the genes remains constant in the cells or tissues under investigation. Although exceptions to this assumption are well documented, housekeeping genes are of value in fully characterized systems. Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) is one of the most commonly used housekeeping genes used in comparisons of gene expression data. To investigate the value of GAPDH as a housekeeping gene in human tissues, the expression of GAPDH mRNA was measured in a panel of 72 different pathologically normal human tissue types. Measurements were obtained from 371,088 multiplexed, quantitative real-time RT-PCRs with specific target genes. Significant differences in the expression levels of GAPDH mRNA were observed between tissue types and between donors of the same tissue. A 15-fold difference in GAPDH mRNA copy numbers was observed between the highest and lowest expressing tissue types, skeletal muscle and breast, respectively. No specific effect of either age or gender was observed on GAPDH mRNA expression. These data provide an extensive analysis of GAPDH mRNA expression in human tissues and confirm previous reports of the marked variability of GAPDH expression between tissue types. These data establish comparative levels of expression and can be used to add value to gene expression data in which GAPDH is used as the internal control.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Cadaver
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organ Specificity
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / isolation & purification
  • Receptors, Transferrin / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Actins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases