Rapid detection of thymidylate synthase gene expression levels by semi-quantitative competitive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction followed by quantitative digital image analysis

Tumour Biol. 1996;17(5):306-19. doi: 10.1159/000217993.


We describe a simplified and reliable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method to quantify thymidylate synthase (TS) gene expression levels from clinical human tumor biopsy samples as small as 100 mg using the beta-actin housekeeping gene as a reference standard. The semiquantitative RT-PCR is carried out by the coamplification of the target template and an external competitor using primer pairs common to both templates in the same reaction vessel. Quantitative digital image analysis is performed directly after electrophoresis, thus mRNA quantification is done quickly and without the use of radioactive substances. The observed relative TS gene expression levels varied between 3- and 40-fold, but most of the values were grouped within a 10-fold range. There is an observed 89% correlation between TS mRNA expression and protein levels. These findings suggest that preliminary experiments used to determine the linear range of RT-PCR amplification in non-competitive semiquantitative PCR experiments, and the use of radioactive substances to quantify PCR products may be unnecessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Thymidylate Synthase / analysis
  • Thymidylate Synthase / genetics*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Thymidylate Synthase