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The function and development of the rat mammary gland is dependent on the oestrus cycle. Normalization of gene expression in mammary gland samples assessed by quantitative RT-PCR therefore requires housekeeping genes (HKGs) which are stably expressed during the oestrus cycle. mRNA expression of 10 HKGs was measured in the rat mammary gland at different phases of the oestrus cycle. In addition, mRNA expression of the HKGs was measured in a panel of other rat tissues comprising laser microdissected mammary gland alveolar lobules and interlobular connective tissue and macrodissected mammary gland, liver, skeletal muscle, colon and ovary samples. Expression and ranking of HKGs varied between tissues and oestrus cycle phases and several HKGs were necessary for normalization between samples. In the mammary gland samples, three HKGs (Sdha, Tbp, and Atp5b) were identified as the optimal combination of stably expressed genes across oestrus cycle phases. For normalization between samples from the entire panel of rat tissues, eight HKGs (Rps18, Eef1a1, B2m, Actb, Tbp, Hprt, Pgk1, and Sdha) were identified as the optimal combination. These HKGs are of general relevance for studies comparing gene expression between different rat tissues.