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This study presents a reliable method for performing reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) to measure gene expression in the whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Asia I) (Gennadius) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae), utilising suitable reference genes for data normalisation. We identified orthologs of commonly used reference genes (actin (ACT), cyclophilin 1 (CYP1), elongation factor 1α (EF1A), glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), ribosomal protein L13a (RPL13A), and α-tubulin (TUB1A)), measured the levels of their transcripts by RT-qPCR during development and in response to thermal stress, and evaluated their suitability as endogenous controls using geNorm, BestKeeper, and NormFinder programs. Overall, TUB1A, RPL13A, and CYP1 were the most stable reference genes during B. tabaci development, and TUB1A, GAPDH, and RPL13A were the most stable reference genes in the context of thermal stress. An analysis of the effects of reference gene choice on the transcript profile of a developmentally-regulated gene encoding vitellogenin demonstrated the importance of selecting the correct endogenous controls for RT-qPCR studies. We propose the use of TUB1A, RPL13A, and CYP1 as endogenous controls for transcript profiling studies of B. tabaci development, whereas the combination of TUB1A, GAPDH, and RPL13A should be employed for studies into thermal stress. The data presented here will assist future transcript profiling studies in whiteflies.
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