Evaluation of reference genes for accurate normalization of gene expression for real time-quantitative PCR in Pyrus pyrifolia using different tissue samples and seasonal conditions

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 22;9(1):e86492. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086492. eCollection 2014.


We have evaluated suitable reference genes for real time (RT)-quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis in Japanese pear (Pyrus pyrifolia). We tested most frequently used genes in the literature such as β-Tubulin, Histone H3, Actin, Elongation factor-1α, Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, together with newly added genes Annexin, SAND and TIP41. A total of 17 primer combinations for these eight genes were evaluated using cDNAs synthesized from 16 tissue samples from four groups, namely: flower bud, flower organ, fruit flesh and fruit skin. Gene expression stabilities were analyzed using geNorm and NormFinder software packages or by ΔCt method. geNorm analysis indicated three best performing genes as being sufficient for reliable normalization of RT-qPCR data. Suitable reference genes were different among sample groups, suggesting the importance of validation of gene expression stability of reference genes in the samples of interest. Ranking of stability was basically similar between geNorm and NormFinder, suggesting usefulness of these programs based on different algorithms. ΔCt method suggested somewhat different results in some groups such as flower organ or fruit skin; though the overall results were in good correlation with geNorm or NormFinder. Gene expression of two cold-inducible genes PpCBF2 and PpCBF4 were quantified using the three most and the three least stable reference genes suggested by geNorm. Although normalized quantities were different between them, the relative quantities within a group of samples were similar even when the least stable reference genes were used. Our data suggested that using the geometric mean value of three reference genes for normalization is quite a reliable approach to evaluating gene expression by RT-qPCR. We propose that the initial evaluation of gene expression stability by ΔCt method, and subsequent evaluation by geNorm or NormFinder for limited number of superior gene candidates will be a practical way of finding out reliable reference genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Computational Biology
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • Pyrus / genetics*
  • RNA Stability
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Seasons*


  • 3' Untranslated Regions

Grant support

The research was funded by NARO research program #210: Adaptation and mitigation to climate change for agriculture. Research was also supported in part by Visiting Research Fellowships for Foreign Researchers from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.