MIQE precis: with reference to reference genes

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Genes that maintain constant expression under
a variety of circumstances are known as ‘reference genes’. They are vital for
researchers who need to quantify gene
expression changes in other genes
and need a ‘reference point’ against which to do so. BMC
Molecular Biology
, has to date published around 200 reference gene-related
papers from researchers working in such diverse models as peaches
,
sharks,
barnacles and glioblastoma to name but a few.

However, to be a true reference gene you
need to fulfil a certain list of criteria and the research field is now united
in requesting that all work be performed to the same accuracy and in accordance
with recommended guidelines. The Minimum Information for Publication of
Quantitative Real-Time PCR
Experiments (MIQE) guidelines were launched over a year ago by an international team of researchers. The aim
of these guidelines was to enable the benchmark technology for measuring gene
expression (quantitative PCR
[qPCR]) to become standardised when reported in research papers.
The MIQE guidelines advise on good assay design and appropriate data analyses
for nucleic acid detection and quantification. BioMed Central supports and
promotes initiatives aimed at improving the reporting of biomedical research,
and refers authors  
to the MIBBI Portal
(of which MIQE is part of) for reporting biological
and biomedical research. Whilst some authors have included MIQE checklists as
supplemental files with their work (for example here),
there has been some debate as to the utility and ease in doing this in all
cases.

After working with several Editorial Board Members from
BMC
Molecular Biology
, we propose that all researchers wishing to publish qPCR
work do so by adhering to our simpler and more abridged ‘light’ guidelines – MIQE
précis
. We also propose that the majority of
reference gene papers are no longer suitable for publication as ‘pure reference
gene papers’, but this information will need to be incorporated as part of a
larger study. Alternatively, authors may publish these more incremental (but
still potentially useful) pure reference gene articles in BMC Research Notes to
contribute to our topical series: “Quantitative Real Time PCR normalization and optimization”.

Incorrectly measuring qPCR does not just have consequences in basic science, as
its misuse in molecular diagnostics
can have very serious consequences.
In 2002 Andrew Wakefield caused controversy when claiming that a form of
irritable bowel disease was triggered by the
measles virus.
The findings were subsequently shown to be incorrect,
owing to poor qPCR analysis. This emphasises the need for correct application
of a very common technique. The BMC series of journals requests that all
authors actively use the MIQE précis guidelines before submitting their manuscripts. We have also produced an easy-to-use
checklist that authors are encouraged to include as a supplementary file.

Improving the reproducibility of
biomedical research and making data available in readily interpretable formats is
vital to realising its value in driving new knowledge discovery, and this
scheme joins BioMed Central’s many initiatives
aimed at promoting best practice in sharing and publishing data.

To discuss and debate the issues raised, one
of our Editorial Board Members and lead author of the editorial, Prof. Stephen
Bustin, is available
to talk further in
an upcoming
Science webinar (September 30 2010, 4 pm GMT).

Ann Le Good
Scott Edmunds
Senior Scientific Editors, BMC-Series journals