Talking the talk, but not walking the walk: RT-qPCR as a paradigm for the lack of reproducibility in molecular research

Eur J Clin Invest. 2017 Oct;47(10):756-774. doi: 10.1111/eci.12801. Epub 2017 Sep 2.


Poorly executed and inadequately reported molecular measurement methods are amongst the causes underlying the lack of reproducibility of much biomedical research. Although several high impact factor journals have acknowledged their past failure to scrutinise adequately the technical soundness of manuscripts, there is a perplexing reluctance to implement basic corrective measures. The reverse transcription real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) is probably the most straightforward measurement technique available for RNA quantification and is widely used in research, diagnostic, forensic and biotechnology applications. Despite the impact of the minimum information for the publication of quantitative PCR experiments (MIQE) guidelines, which aim to improve the robustness and the transparency of reporting of RT-qPCR data, we demonstrate that elementary protocol errors, inappropriate data analysis and inadequate reporting continue to be rife and conclude that the majority of published RT-qPCR data are likely to represent technical noise.

Keywords: qPCR; Gene expression; quantification; reverse transcription.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • RNA / analysis
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • RNA