Reference Genes for Real-Time PCR Quantification of MicroRNAs and Messenger RNAs in Rat Models of Hepatotoxicity
by María N. Lardizábal, Ana L. Nocito, Stella M. Daniele, Leonardo A. Ornella, Javier F. Palatnik, Luis M. Veggi
Hepatotoxicity is associated with major changes in liver gene expression induced by xenobiotic exposure. Understanding the underlying mechanisms is critical for its clinical diagnosis and treatment. MicroRNAs are key regulators of gene expression that control mRNA stability and translation, during normal development and pathology. The canonical technique to measure gene transcript levels is Real-Time qPCR, which has been successfully modified to determine the levels of microRNAs as well. However, in order to obtain accurate data in a multi-step method like RT-qPCR, the normalization with endogenous, stably expressed reference genes is mandatory. Since the expression stability of candidate reference genes varies greatly depending on experimental factors, the aim of our study was to identify a combination of genes for optimal normalization of microRNA and mRNA qPCR expression data in experimental models of acute hepatotoxicity. Rats were treated with four traditional hepatotoxins: acetaminophen, carbon tetrachloride, D-galactosamine and thioacetamide, and the liver expression levels of two groups of candidate reference genes, one for microRNA and the other for mRNA normalization, were determined by RT-qPCR in compliance with the MIQE guidelines. In the present study, we report that traditional reference genes such as U6 spliceosomal RNA, Beta Actin and Glyceraldehyde-3P-dehydrogenase altered their expression in response to classic hepatotoxins and therefore cannot be used as reference genes in hepatotoxicity studies. Stability rankings of candidate reference genes, considering only those that did not alter their expression, were determined using geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper software packages. The potential candidates whose measurements were stable were further tested in different combinations to find the optimal set of reference genes that accurately determine mRNA and miRNA levels. Finally, the combination of MicroRNA-16/5S Ribosomal RNA and Beta 2 Microglobulin/18S Ribosomal RNA were validated as optimal reference genes for microRNA and mRNA quantification, respectively, in rat models of acute hepatotoxicity.
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