Real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR), also known as quantitative PCR, is used to determine relative gene expression or to quantify exact levels of mRNA in cells or tissues. Before the advent of real-time PCR, the major difficulty associated with traditional quantitative or semiquantitative PCR was to ensure that PCR reactions were quantified within the exponential phase of amplification. Real-time PCR alleviates that problem by detecting and quantifying fluorescent signals after each amplification cycle. Additionally, it does not require running gels and thus is able to produce data in 2 to 3 h. Four different types of chemistries, DNA-binding agents (SYBR Green), hydrolysis probes (TaqMan), hairpin probes (molecular beacons, scorpions), and fluorescent-labeled hybridization probes (Light Cycler), have been commonly used for real-time PCR. Among those chemistries, SYBR Green is the most economical choice. We have used real-time PCR and SYBR Green to examine the expression of a number of leafy spurge genes after growth induction and during normal seasonal growth. Because no reliable endogenous reference genes have been identified in leafy spurge, we performed PCR without an endogenous reference gene and analyzed messenger RNA (mRNA) expression based on the threshold cycle (CT) value of amplification. Excluding an endogenous reference gene from that data analysis was rather straightforward and reliable if RNA was properly prepared and quantified. Given that genomic tools, such as expressed sequence tags (ESTs), and their expression profiles are lacking for most weedy species, avoiding the use of endogenous reference genes in real-time PCR simplifies the optimization process and reduces the cost tremendously. However, we found that using a passive reference dye (ROX) to normalize non-PCR–related fluctuations in fluorescent signal is desirable.
Nomenclature: Leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula L. EPHES