Molecular monitoring of chronic myelogenous leukemia: identification of the most suitable internal control gene for real-time quantification of BCR-ABL transcripts

J Mol Diagn. 2006 May;8(2):231-9. doi: 10.2353/jmoldx.2006.040404.


Monitoring breakpoint cluster region-Abelson kinase (BCR-ABL) levels in patients treated for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) has become an integral part of patient management. Real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction is the method of choice for this purpose because of its high analytical sensitivity and reproducibility. Given the variation of RNA quality and quantity in clinical specimens, accurate quantitative assessment of BCR-ABL depends on normalization of the BCR-ABL signal to an appropriate internal reference. However, the controls used by different laboratories vary, and there is no clear consensus on an ideal reference due to limited investigations. In this study, we compared nine commonly used control genes for three criteria: mRNA abundance, levels in CML and non-CML cells, and their degradation kinetics in comparison with BCR-ABL. We found that beta-glucuronidase (GUSB) is the most suitable among the nine genes tested. Although ABL is most widely used, our data suggest that the amount of ABL is different in CML and non-CML cells. Moreover, ABL levels are regulated by cellular stress. These findings have a direct impact on current clinical laboratory practice and patient care because the use of a proper control gene affects the reported levels of BCR-ABL transcripts used for patient management decisions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl