Validation of endogenous normalizing genes for expression analyses in adult human testis and germ cell neoplasms

Mol Hum Reprod. 2014 Aug;20(8):709-18. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gau030. Epub 2014 Apr 17.


The measurement of gene expression levels in cells and tissues typically depends on a suitable point of reference for inferring biological relevance. For quantitative (or real-time) RT-PCR assays, the method of choice is often to normalize gene expression data to an endogenous gene that is stably expressed across the samples analysed: a so-called normalizing or housekeeping gene. Although this is a valid strategy, the identification of stable normalizing genes has proved challenging and a gene showing stable expression across all cells or tissues is unlikely to exist. Therefore, it is necessary to define suitable normalizing genes for specific cells and tissues. Here, we report on the performance of a panel of nine commonly employed normalizing genes in adult human testis and testicular pathologies. Our analyses revealed significant variability in transcript abundance for commonly used normalizers, highlighting the importance of selecting appropriate normalizing genes as comparative measurements can yield variable results when different normalizing genes are employed. Based on our results, we recommend using RPS20, RPS29 or SRSF4 when analysing relative gene expression levels in human testis and associated testicular pathologies. OCT4 and SALL4 can be used with caution as second-tier normalizers when determining changes in gene expression in germ cells and germ cell tumour components, but the relative transcript abundance appears variable between different germ cell tumour types. We further recommend that such studies should be accompanied by additional assessment of histology and cellularity of each sample.

Keywords: germ cell cancer; human; qRT–PCR; reference genes; testis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / metabolism*
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / genetics
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3 / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics
  • Ribosomal Proteins / metabolism
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • POU5F1 protein, human
  • Ribosomal Proteins
  • SALL4 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • ribosomal protein S20