Validation of Suitable Housekeeping Genes for the Normalization of mRNA Expression for Studying Tumor Acidosis

Silvia Lemma, Sofia Avnet, Michael Joseph Meade, Tokuhiro Chano, Nicola Baldini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Similar to other types of cancer, acidification of tumor microenvironment is an important feature of osteosarcoma, and a major source of cellular stress that triggers cancer aggressiveness, drug resistance, and progression. Among the different effects of low extracellular pH on tumor cells, we have recently found that short-term exposure to acidosis strongly affects gene expression. This alteration might also occur for the most commonly used housekeeping genes (HKG), thereby causing erroneous interpretation of RT-qPCR data. On this basis, by using osteosarcoma cells cultured at different pH values, we aimed to identify the ideal HKG to be considered in studies on tumor-associated acidosis. We verified the stability of 15 commonly used HKG through five algorithms (NormFinder, geNorm, BestKeeper, ΔCT, coefficient of variation) and found that no universal HKG is suitable, since at least four HKG are necessary for proper normalization. Furthermore, according to the acceptable range of values, YWHAZ, GAPDH, GUSB, and 18S rRNA were the most stable reference genes at different pH. Our results will be helpful for future investigations focusing on the effect of altered microenvironment on cancer behavior, particularly on the effectiveness of anticancer therapies in acid conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Sep 26 2018


  • RT-qPCR
  • acidosis
  • housekeeping gene
  • tumor microenvironment

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