Background Anemia and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) are common comorbidities experienced by preterm infants, yet the role of anemia on the pathogenesis of ROP remains unclear. Reverse-transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is a sensitive technique for estimating the gene expression changes at the transcript level but requires identification of stably expressed reference genes for accurate data interpretation. This is particularly important for oxygen induced retinopathy studies given that some commonly used reference genes are sensitive to oxygen. This study aimed to identify stably expressed reference genes among eight commonly used reference genes in the neonatal rat pups' retina upon exposure to cyclic hyperoxia-hypoxia, anemia, and erythropoietin administration at two age groups (P14.5 and P20) using Bestkeeper, geNorm, and Normfinder, three publicly available, free algorithms, and comparing their results to the in-silico prediction program, RefFinder. Results The most stable reference gene across both developmental stages was Rpp30, as predicted by Genorm, Bestkeeper, and Normfinder. RefFinder predicted Tbp to be the most stable across both developmental stages. At P14.5, stability varied by prediction program; at P20, RPP30 and MAPK1 were the most stable reference genes. Gapdh, 18S, Rplp0, and HPRT were predicted as the least stable reference genes by at least one of the prediction algorithms. Conclusion Expression of Rpp30 is the least affected by experimental conditions of oxygen induced retinopathy, phlebotomy induced anemia and erythropoietin administration at both timepoints of P14.5 and P20.
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