Selection of reference genes for qrt-pcr analysis in medicinal plant glycyrrhiza under abiotic stresses and hormonal treatments

Yuping Li, Xiaoju Liang, Xuguo Zhou, Zhigeng Wu, Ling Yuan, Ying Wang, Yongqing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Best known as licorice, Glycyrrhiza Linn., a genus of herbaceous perennial legume, has been used as a traditional herbal medicine in Asia and a flavoring agent for tobacco and food industry in Europe and America. Abiotic stresses and hormonal treatments can significantly impact the development and metabolism of secondary metabolites in Glycyrrhiza. To better understand the biosynthesis of the trace-amount bioactive compounds, we first screened for the suitable reference genes for quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis in Glycyrrhiza. The expression profiles of 14 candidate reference genes, including Actin1 (ACT), Clathrin complex AP1 (CAC), Cyclophilin (CYP), Heat-shock protein 40 (DNAJ), Dehydration responsive element binding gene (DREB), Translation elongation factor1 (EF1), Ras related protein (RAN), Translation initiation factor (TIF1), _-Tubulin (TUB), Ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme E2 (UBC2), ATP binding-box transpoter 2 (ABCC2), COP9 signal compex subunit 3 (COPS3), Citrate synthase (CS), and R3H domain protein 2 (R3HDM2) from two congeneric species, Glycyrrhiza uralensis F. and Glycyrrhiza inflata B., were examined under abiotic stresses (osmotic and salinity) and hormonal treatments (Abscisic acid (ABA) and methyl jasmonic acid (MeJA)) using a panel of software, including geNorm, NormFinder, BestKeeper, and Delta CT. The overall stability, however, was provided by RefFinder, a comprehensive ranking system integrating inputs from all four algorithms. In G. uralensis, the most stable reference genes under osmotic stress, salt stress, ABA treatment, and MeJA treatment were TIF1, DNAJ, CS, and ABCC2 for leaves and DNAJ, DREB, CAC, and CAC for roots, respectively. In comparison, the top ranked genes were TUB, CAC, UBC2, and RAN for leaves and TIF1, ABCC2, CAC, and UBC2 for roots, respectively, under stress and hormonal treatments in G. inflata. ACT and TIF1, on the other hand, were the least stable genes under the most experimental conditions in the two congeneric species. Finally, our survey of the reference genes in legume shows that EF, ACT, UBC2, and TUB were the top choices for the abiotic stresses while EF, UBC2, CAC, and ABCC2 were recommended for the hormonal treatments in Leguminosae. Our combined results provide reliable normalizers for accurate gene quantifications in Glycyrrhiza species, which will allow us to exploit its medicinal potential in general and antiviral activities in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1441
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Abiotic stress
  • Glycyrrhiza
  • Hormonal treatment
  • Medicinal plant
  • Reference gene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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