Selection of Reference Genes for Quantitative Gene Expression Studies in Platycladus orientalis (Cupressaceae) Using Real-Time PCR

>Platycladus orientalis is a tree species that is highly resistant, widely adaptable, and long-lived, with lifespans of even thousands of years. To explore the mechanisms underlying these characteristics, gene expressions have been investigated at the transcriptome level by RNA-seq combined with a digital gene expression (DGE) technique. So, it is crucial to have a reliable set of reference genes to normalize the expressions of genes in P. orientalis under various conditions using the most accurate and sensitive method of quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). In this study, we selected 10 reference gene candidates from transcriptome data of P. orientalis, and examined their expression profiles by qRT-PCR using 29 different samples of P. orientalis, which were collected from plants of different ages, different tissues, and plants subjected to different treatments including cold, heat, salinity, polyethylene glycol (PEG), and abscisic acid (ABA). Three analytical software packages (geNorm, Bestkeeper, and NormFinder) were used to assess the stability of gene expression. The results showed that ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme E2 (UBC) and alpha-tubulin (aTUB) were the optimum pair of reference genes at all developmental stages and under all stress conditions. ACT7 was the most stable gene across different tissues and cold-treated samples, while UBQ was the most stably expressed reference gene for NaCl- and ABA-treated samples. In parallel, aTUB and UBC were used singly or in combination as reference genes to examine the expression levels of NAC (a homolog of AtNAC2) in plants subjected to various treatments with qRT-PCR. The results further proved the reliability of the two selected reference genes. Our study will benefit future research on the expression of genes in response to stress/senescence in P. orientalis and other members of the Cupressaceae.

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