Articles | 2019

Scientific Reports, 2019, Published online: 29 August

Exposure to graphene oxide sheets alters the expression of reference genes used for real-time RT-qPCR normalization

Irene de Lazaro* and Kostas Kostarelos

Studies unraveling the interactions between graphene oxide (GO) and the biological milieu, including cells and tissues, are multiplying quickly as the biomedical applications of this and other 2D materials continue to be explored. Many of such studies rely on real-time RT-qPCR as a powerful but simple technique to determine gene expression. However, a systematic investigation of potential GO-induced changes in the expression of reference genes, crucial for appropriate qPCR data normalization, is still lacking. We aimed to cover this gap investigating the stability of the expression of ten candidate reference genes upon exposure to increasing, but subtoxic, GO concentrations, with two established algorithms (Bestkeeper and NormFinder). The study was performed in a human cancer cell line (MCF7) and in mouse, non-cancerous primary cells (mouse embryonic fibroblasts, MEFs), to assess different behaviors between cell types. Both algorithms evidenced significant deviations in the expression of various reference genes. Ribosomal proteins scored among the most significantly dysregulated in both cell types. ACTB and GAPDH, the most frequent calibrators in real-time RT-qPCR, were also affected, although differences existed between cell lines. This study illustrates the need to validate reference genes for appropriate real-time RT-qPCR normalization, according to specific experimental conditions, when GO-cell interactions occur.

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