Abstract #130

Section: Gene Expression
Session: Gene Expression
Format: Poster
Location: Rio Exhibit Hall B
# 130
Z. Jiang*1, J. Sun2, S. Marjani3, H. Dong4, X. Zheng4, J. Bi2, J. Chen4, X. Tian1, 1Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA;, 2Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA;, 3Department of Biology, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT, USA;, 4Xinjiang Academy of Animal Science, Urumqi, Xinjiang, China.

Appropriate reference genes for accurate normalization in RT-PCR are essential for the study of gene expression. Ideal reference genes should not only have stable expression across stages of embryo development, but also be expressed at comparable levels to the target genes. Using RNA-seq data from in vivo-produced bovine oocytes and embryos from the 2-cell to blastocyst stage (Jiang et al., 2014 BMC Genomics 15, 756), we tried to establish a catalogue of all reference genes for RT-PCR analysis. One-way ANOVA generated 4055 genes that did not differ across stages. To reduce this list, we used the entire RNA-seq data set and first removed genes with a FPKM (fragments per kilobase of transcript per million mapped reads) of <1, and then rescaled each gene’s expression values within a range of 0 to 1. We subsequently calculated the expression variance for each gene across all stages. By assuming that the calculated variances follow a Gaussian distribution and that the majority of the genes do not have a stable expression level, a gene was classified as a reference if its variance significantly deviated (P < 0.05) from these assumptions. We identified 346 potential reference genes, all of which were among the candidates from the ANOVA analysis. We arbitrarily assigned genes in this list to high (FPKM ≥ 100), medium (10 < FPKM < 100), and low expression levels (FPKM ≤ 10), and 37, 154, and 155 genes, respectively, fell into these groups. Surprisingly, none of the commonly used reference genes, such as GAPDH, PPIA, ACTB, PRL15, GUSB, and H3F2A, were identified as being stably expressed across in vivo development. This is consistent with findings of prior RT-PCR studies (Robert et al. 2002 Biol. Reprod. 67, 1465–1472; Ross et al. 2010 Cell Reprogram. 12, 709–717). The following gene ontology terms were significantly enriched for the 346 genes: cell cycle, translation, transport, chromatin, cell division, and metabolic process, indicating that the early embryos maintained constant levels of genes involved in fundamental biological functions. Finally, we performed RT-PCR to validate the RNA-seq results using different bovine in vivo-derived oocytes and embryos (n = 3/stage). We successfully validated 10 selected genes, including those in the high (CS, PGD, and ACTR3), medium (CCT5, MRPL47, COG2, CRT9, and HELLS), and low expression groups (CDC23 and TTF1). In conclusion, we recommend the use of reference genes that are expressed at comparable levels to target genes. This study offers a useful resource to aid in the appropriate selection of reference genes, which will improve the accuracy of quantitative gene expression analyses across bovine embryo pre-implantation development.