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Massively Parallel Single-Molecule and Single-Cell Emulsion Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Using Agarose Droplet Microfluidics

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journal contribution
posted on 17.04.2012, 00:00 by Huifa Zhang, Gareth Jenkins, Yuan Zou, Zhi Zhu, Chaoyong James Yang
A microfluidic device for performing single copy, emulsion Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) within agarose droplets is presented. A two-aqueous-inlet emulsion droplet generator was designed and fabricated to produce highly uniform monodisperse picoliter agarose emulsion droplets with RT-PCR reagents in carrier oil. Template RNA or cells were delivered from one inlet with RT-PCR reagents/cell lysis buffer delivered separately from the other. Efficient RNA/cell encapsulation and RT-PCR at the single copy level was achieved in agarose-in-oil droplets, which, after amplification, can be solidified into agarose beads for further analysis. A simple and efficient method to graft primer to the polymer matrix using 5′-acrydite primer was developed to ensure highly efficient trapping of RT-PCR products in agarose. High-throughput single RNA molecule/cell RT-PCR was demonstrated in stochastically diluted solutions. Our results indicate that single-molecule RT-PCR can be efficiently carried out in agarose matrix. Single-cell RT-PCR was successfully performed which showed a clear difference in gene expression level of EpCAM, a cancer biomarker gene, at the single-cell level between different types of cancer cells. This work clearly demonstrates for the first time, single-copy RT-PCR in agarose droplets. We believe this will open up new possibilities for viral RNA detection and single-cell transcription analysis.