Human housekeeping genes, revisited

Trends Genet. 2013 Oct;29(10):569-74. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2013.05.010. Epub 2013 Jun 27.


Housekeeping genes are involved in basic cell maintenance and, therefore, are expected to maintain constant expression levels in all cells and conditions. Identification of these genes facilitates exposure of the underlying cellular infrastructure and increases understanding of various structural genomic features. In addition, housekeeping genes are instrumental for calibration in many biotechnological applications and genomic studies. Advances in our ability to measure RNA expression have resulted in a gradual increase in the number of identified housekeeping genes. Here, we describe housekeeping gene detection in the era of massive parallel sequencing and RNA-seq. We emphasize the importance of expression at a constant level and provide a list of 3804 human genes that are expressed uniformly across a panel of tissues. Several exceptionally uniform genes are singled out for future experimental use, such as RT-PCR control genes. Finally, we discuss both ways in which current technology can meet some of past obstacles encountered, and several as yet unmet challenges.

Keywords: RNA-seq; gene expression patterns; housekeeping genes; internal control; next generation sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Genetic
  • Genes, Essential*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans