Selection and evaluation of reference genes for expression analysis using qRT-PCR in the beet armyworm Spodoptera exigua (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 15;9(1):e84730. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084730. eCollection 2014.


Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) is a reliable and reproducible technique for measuring and evaluating changes in gene expression. The most common method for analyzing qRT-PCR data is to normalize mRNA levels of target genes to internal reference genes. Evaluating and selecting stable reference genes on a case-by-case basis is critical. The present study aimed to facilitate gene expression studies by identifying the most suitable reference genes for normalization of mRNA expression in qRT-PCR analysis of the beet armyworm Spodoptera exigua (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). For this purpose, three software tools (geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper) were used to investigate 10 candidate reference genes in nine developmental stages and five different tissues (epidermis, head, midgut, fat body and hemolymph) in three larval physiological stages (molting, feeding and wandering stages) of, S. exigua. With the exception of 18S ribosomal RNA (18S), all other candidate genes evaluated, β-actin1(ACT1), β-actin2 (ACT2), elongation factor1(EF1), elongation factor 2 (EF2), Glyceralde hyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), ribosomal protein L10 (L10), ribosomal protein L17A (L17A), superoxide dismutase (SOD), α-tubulin (TUB),proved to be acceptable reference genes. However, their suitability partly differed between physiological stages and different tissues. L10, EF2 and L17A ranked highest in all tissue sample sets. SOD, ACT2, GAPDH, EF1 and ACT1 were stably expressed in all developmental stage sample sets; ACT2, ACT1 and L10 for larvae sample sets; GAPDH, ACT1 and ACT2 for pupae and adults; SOD and L17A for males; and EF2 and SOD for females. The expression stability of genes varied in different conditions. The findings provided here demonstrated, with a few exceptions, the suitability of most of the 10 reference genes tested in tissues and life developmental stages. Overall, this study emphasizes the importance of validating reference genes for qRT-PCR analysis in S. exigua.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Spodoptera / genetics*


  • DNA Primers

Grant support

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31201544), Hubei Province Science & Technology Department of China (No. 2011BFA018), Beijing Natural Science Foundation of China (6102021), and Independent Innovation Foundation of Huazhong Agricultural University (No. 2011PY123). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.