Evaluation of reference genes for qRT-PCR studies in the colchicine producing Gloriosa superba L.

Nekha Johnson, Diana Rodriguez Diaz, Sivakumar Ganapathy, John S. Bass, Toni M. Kutchan, Abdul L. Khan, Albert B. Flavier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The flame lily, Gloriosa superba L., is one of the two primary sources of the anti-inflammatory drug, colchicine. Previous studies have shown that a higher level of colchicine production occurs in the rhizomes than in leaves and roots. Earlier precursor feeding and transcriptome analysis of G. superba have provided a putative pathway and candidate genes involved in colchicine biosynthesis. Comparative analysis of expression levels of candidate pathway genes in different tissues of G. superba using quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) can reveal highly expressed genes in the rhizome compared to other tissues which could suggest roles of the gene products in colchicine biosynthesis. Normalization is an important step in effectively analyzing differential gene expression by qRT-PCR with broader applications. The current study selected candidate reference genes from the transcriptome datasets and analyzed them to determine the most stable genes for normalization of colchicine biosynthesis-related genes. Using RefFinder, one stable reference gene, UBC22, was selected to normalize gene expression levels of candidate methyltransferase (MT) genes in the leaves, roots, and rhizomes of G. superba. With UBC22 as reference gene, the methyltransferases, GsOMT1, GsOMT3, and GsOMT4 showed significantly higher expression levels in the rhizome of G. superba, while MT31794 was more highly expressed in the roots. In conclusion, the current results showed a viable reference gene expression analysis system that could help elucidate colchicine biosynthesis and its exploitation for increased production of the drug in G. superba.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-571
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Biotechnology Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Colchicine
  • Differential expression
  • Gloriosa superba
  • Reference genes
  • Rhizome
  • qRT-PCR


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