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2 Strategies for Relative Quantification: A Simple Primer

As all of you most likely know, there are two strategies for relative quantification of gene expression from qPCR information, the double delta Ct (ΔΔCt) methodology and the Pffafl methodology.

Chances are high you’ve most likely caught with the ΔΔCt methodology, however you need to be ready in case you face primer units of various amplification efficiencies.

Each strategies require the usage of a housekeeping gene to regulate for variations in pattern amount, and each report the outcomes as a fold change within the expression of the goal gene in check samples, relative to regulate samples. However what’s the distinction between them?

On this article, we’re going to clarify each of those strategies and spotlight when to make use of every.

What’s Relative Quantification?

Relative quantification in qPCR is the place you measure gene expression ranges by evaluating the degrees of expression of your gene of curiosity in opposition to the degrees of expression of an inner management gene. 

This presents a reasonably easy strategy to decide if the expression of your gene of curiosity is altered, with out having to find out the precise expression ranges, by means of absolute quantification, which may be a lot trickier. 

Housekeeping genes, that’s genes which might be required for the final day-to-day working of a cell, are inclined to have a gentle expression stage and are subsequently usually used because the management gene in relative quantification. 

Relative Quantification of qPCR Knowledge: Key Phrases

Earlier than we discover these two principal strategies additional, let’s get the nomenclature settled (Desk 1).

Desk 1: Key nomenclature for Relative Quantification of qPCR Knowledge.

Time period Definition
Goal gene The gene of curiosity whose expression we’re figuring out
Reference gene The housekeeping gene whose expression is unregulated
Calibrator pattern The pattern (or group of samples) we’re utilizing as a management
Check pattern The pattern (or group) that we’re treating or testing for variations
Expression fold change/Relative gene expression The ratio of the goal gene expression within the check pattern over the calibrator pattern

To make clear, the strategies described on this publish are used for the relative quantification (RQ) of gene expression.

The Frequent “Double Delta Ct” Technique for Relative Quantification

The ΔΔCt methodology was first outlined by Livak and Schmittgen in 2001, [1] who primarily based the strategy on two assumptions:

  1. The amplification effectivity (extra on that later) between primer units doesn’t differ by greater than 5%, and we are able to assume the efficiencies are the identical.
  2. The goal and reference gene amplify with close to 100% effectivity, which means that within the exponential part your template will enhance roughly two-fold with each cycle.

If these circumstances are glad, you possibly can proceed with calculating your gene expression utilizing the ΔΔCt methodology, which is defined completely and properly in our 4 Simple Steps to Analyze Your qPCR Knowledge Utilizing Double Delta Ct Evaluation article.

As a reminder, listed here are the equations you want for this methodology:

RQ = 2^{-DeltaDelta Ct}

The place:

DeltaDelta Ct= Delta Ct(textual content{check samples}) – Delta Ct(textual content{calibrator samples})

Delta Ct(textual content{check samples})= Ct(textual content{goal gene in check}) – Delta Ct(textual content{reference genes in check})

Delta Ct(textual content{calibrator samples})= Ct(textual content{goal gene in calibrator}) – Delta Ct(textual content{reference genes in calibrator})

The Pffafl (or Commonplace Curve) Technique

Within the tragic occasion that your primer units have completely different efficiencies (i.e., with over 5% distinction), don’t despair. You don’t have to revamp all the pieces! You simply want to make use of a special calculation.

Pffafl methodology to the rescue! This methodology is also referred to as the usual curve methodology for relative quantification, which could sound extra acquainted to you.

Right here you’re utilizing a correction for the distinction in effectivity, which mainly means you’re incorporating the effectivity of every primer set into the equation under for relative quantification.

RQ = frac{(E_{goal})^{Delta Ct (goal)}}{(E_{reference})^{Delta Ct (reference)}}

The place:

Delta Ct(textual content{goal})= Ct(textual content{goal gene in calibrator}) – Delta Ct(textual content{goal gene in check})

Delta Ct(textual content{reference})= Ct(textual content{reference gene in calibrator}) – Delta Ct(textual content{reference gene in check})

The ΔΔCt methodology is definitely a particular case of the Pffafl methodology the place the effectivity of each the goal and reference genes are equal to 2 (i.e., the quantity of the PCR product is doubling with every cycle):

RQ = frac{2^{Delta Ct (goal)}}{2^{Delta Ct (reference)}}

= 2^{[Delta Ct (target)- Delta Ct (reference)]}

= 2^{[Ct (text{target, calibrator})- Ct (text{target, test})] -[Ct (text{reference, calibrator})- Ct (text{reference, test})]}

= 2^{-[Ct (text{target, test})- Ct (text{target, calibrator})]- [Ct (text{reference, test})- Ct (text{reference, calibrator})]}

=2^{-Delta Delta Ct}

Amplification Effectivity

Lastly, let’s outline the amplification effectivity and its significance earlier than we start our experiment.

At any time when you’ve gotten a brand new set of primers, you first want to check their amplification effectivity. That is calculated from the slope of the usual curve of every primer set, so it is advisable to arrange a small qPCR experiment to generate the usual curve. Learn this text to get an in depth understanding of the Vital Issues for Figuring out qPCR Effectivity.

To avoid wasting you a while, right here’s a fast abstract of the experimental setup:

  1. Make a number of (5 is an efficient quantity right here) 10-fold dilutions of cDNA or DNA.
  2. Run qPCRs with each reference and goal gene primers.
  3. Plot the measured Ct values for every dilution in a single gene in opposition to the log of the dilution issue (in case you are utilizing a template of identified focus, then use the log of focus).
  4. Do the identical for the opposite gene.
  5. After including a regression line, take the worth of the slope.
  6. Calculate the amplification effectivity of your primer set utilizing the equation under.

E=10^{-1/textual content{slope}}

Ideally, the quantity of reference and goal DNA areas ought to double every cycle, which will provide you with an effectivity of two with a slope of -3.32. Subsequently, every dilution may have a Ct worth 3.32 bigger than the earlier one.

Often, the effectivity is introduced as a proportion, which you calculate like this:

% textual content{ Effectivity}=(E-1)instances 100

Effectivity ought to fall between 90% and 110%. If it doesn’t, your PCR response shouldn’t be optimum and it’s greatest to only throw away that primer set and redesign a brand new set.

Some Vital Mathematical Guidelines

These equations might look complicated if (like me) you’ve forgotten some excessive school-level mathematical guidelines. Right here’s a fast reminder that will help you perceive these equations extra clearly.

The exponential perform is the inverse of the logarithm perform:

textual content{log}_ax=b a^b=x

And right here is the way you deal with the division of the identical base exponents:


How Dependable is Relative Quantification?

We talked about earlier that housekeeping genes are chosen due to their steady expression ranges. Nonetheless, the expression stage of housekeeping genes can nonetheless be impacted by numerous therapies and between samples, which means your information may not be as correct as you assume. 

There are two principal approaches to fixing this concern.

1. Choose the Most Steady Reference Gene

One strategy to overcome the problem of fixing expression ranges of housekeeping genes is to check a number of genes and decide which is probably the most steady, and subsequently appropriate, in your experimental circumstances.

A number of algorithms exist that may establish probably the most stably expressed gene from a panel of potential reference genes, together with geNorm, which is out there as a part of qbase+, and NormFinder, which is out there for R or as an Excel add-on. 

After getting decided the very best gene to your experiments, you possibly can then use that in your subsequent qPCR runs and analyze the information utilizing one of many earlier two strategies.

2. Normalize to A number of Reference Genes

Why normalize to at least one gene when you should use a number of? Normalizing to a number of reference genes can enhance the accuracy of your normalization. Nonetheless, neither of the strategies offered above can be utilized for relative quantification with a number of reference genes.

In 2002, Vandesompele et al. developed a way for geometric averaging of a number of inner reference genes that you should use to normalize in opposition to a panel of management genes. [3]

Remaining Ideas on Strategies for Relative Quantification of qPCR Knowledge

Sufficient calculations for now! We hope this text has demystified the 2 strategies of relative quantification for you.

For those who’d wish to be taught extra about how one can enhance your qPCR experiments and information, learn our article on the 11 qPCR Papers Each Researcher Ought to Know. Hold calm and quantify on!


  1. Livak Ok., S. T. (2001). Evaluation of Relative Gene Expression Knowledge Utilizing Actual-Time Quantitative PCR and the 2-ddCT Technique. Strategies 4:402–408.
  2. Pfaffl, M. W. (2004). Quantification methods in real-time PCR. In M. W. Pfaffl, A-Z of quantitative PCR La Jolla, CA, USA: Worldwide College Line (IUL).
  3. Vandesompele., J. et al. (2002) Correct normalization of real-time quantitative RT-PCR information by geometric averaging of a number of inner management genes. Genome Biol. 3(7).

Initially printed in August 2016. Reviewed and up to date in July 2022.

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