Normalizing RT-qPCR miRNA datasets that encompass numerous preimplantation embryo stages requires the identification of miRNAs that may be used as stable reference genes. A need has also arisen for the normalization of the accompanying conditioned culture media as extracellular miRNAs may serve as biomarkers of embryo developmental competence. Here, we evaluate the stability of six commonly used miRNA normalization candidates, as well as small nuclear U6, using five different means of evaluation (BestKeeper, NormFinder, geNorm, the comparative Delta Ct method and RefFinder comprehensive analysis) to assess their stability throughout murine preimplantation embryo development from the oocyte to the late blastocyst stages, both in whole embryos and the associated conditioned culture media. In descending order of effectiveness, miR-16, miR-191 and miR-106 were identified as the most stable individual reference miRNAs for developing whole CD1 murine preimplantation embryos, while miR-16, miR-106 and miR-103 were ideal for the conditioned culture media. Notably, the widely used U6 reference was among the least appropriate for normalizing both whole embryo and conditioned media miRNA datasets. Incorporating multiple reference miRNAs into the normalization basis via a geometric mean was deemed beneficial, and combinations of each set of stable miRNAs are further recommended, pending validation on a per experiment basis.
Keywords: blastocyst; embryo; housekeeper; media; miRNA; microRNA; murine; normalizer; preimplantation; reference.