Editor's Spotlight

Tools to minimize interlaboratory variability in vitellogenin gene expression monitoring programs

The egg yolk precursor protein vitellogenin is widely used as a biomarker of estrogen exposure in male fish. However, standardized methodology is lacking and little is known regarding the reproducibility of results among laboratories using different equipment, reagents, protocols, and data analysis programs. To address this data gap the authors tested the reproducibility across laboratories to evaluate vitellogenin gene (vtg) expression and assessed the value of using a freely available software data analysis program. Samples collected from studies of male fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) exposed to 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) and minnows exposed to processed wastewater effluent were evaluated for vtg expression in 4 laboratories. The results indicate reasonable consistency among laboratories if the free software for expression analysis LinRegPCR is used, with 3 of 4 laboratories detecting vtg in fish exposed to 5 ng/L EE2 (n = 5). All 4 laboratories detected significantly increased vtg levels in 15 male fish exposed to wastewater effluent compared with 15 male fish held in a control stream. Finally, the authors were able to determine that the source of high interlaboratory variability from complementary deoxyribonucleic acid (cDNA) to quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analyses was the expression analysis software unique to each real-time qPCR machine. The authors successfully eliminated the interlaboratory variability by reanalyzing raw fluorescence data with independent freeware, which yielded cycle thresholds and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) efficiencies that calculated results independently of proprietary software. The results suggest that laboratories engaged in monitoring programs should validate their PCR protocols and analyze their gene expression data following the guidelines established in this study for all gene expression biomarkers.