Recommendations for Normalizing Reporter Assays

Reporter assays can be used to investigate a variety of questions from cell signaling to transcription. Your controls depend upon the question you are trying to answer.
As a technical services scientist, I get to hear about many amazing experiments at the planning stage, and I often talk to researchers about how to plan a reporter assay. For the uninitiated, reporter assays are used to “report” the ability or the efficacy of the inserted DNA element to induce/ regulate gene expression as a qualitative or quantitative measure. A typical experimental protocol involves cloning of a DNA fragment upstream of a reporter gene in a plasmid, (and of course confirming the clone by sequencing), transfecting a mammalian cell line with the plasmid and assaying for reporter gene expression by measuring fluorescence, luminescence or absorbance signals. A positive signal would indicate that the cloned DNA element is responsible for driving the gene expression of the reporter.

As in any biological experiment, the controls are as important, if not more, than the actual samples. There are multiple options, and researcher needs to choose the controls depending on the question they would like to ask. Continue reading “Recommendations for Normalizing Reporter Assays”