Real-time RT-PCR normalisation; strategies and considerations

Genes Immun. 2005 Jun;6(4):279-84. doi: 10.1038/sj.gene.6364190.


Real-time RT-PCR has become a common technique, no longer limited to specialist core facilities. It is in many cases the only method for measuring mRNA levels of vivo low copy number targets of interest for which alternative assays either do not exist or lack the required sensitivity. Benefits of this procedure over conventional methods for measuring RNA include its sensitivity, large dynamic range, the potential for high throughout as well as accurate quantification. To achieve this, however, appropriate normalisation strategies are required to control for experimental error introduced during the multistage process required to extract and process the RNA. There are many strategies that can be chosen; these include normalisation to sample size, total RNA and the popular practice of measuring an internal reference or housekeeping gene. However, these methods are frequently applied without appropriate validation. In this review we discuss the relative merits of different normalisation strategies and suggest a method of validation that will enable the measurement of biologically meaningful results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Profiling / standards
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry*
  • Reference Standards
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / standards*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • RNA, Messenger