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Single-Cell Phenotypic Analysis and Digital Molecular Detection Linkable by a Hydrogel Bead-Based Platform

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posted on 12.02.2021, 21:44 by Yanzhe Zhu, Jing Li, Xingyu Lin, Xiao Huang, Michael R. Hoffmann
Cell heterogeneity, such as antibiotic heteroresistance and cancer cell heterogeneity, has been increasingly observed. To probe the underlying molecular mechanisms in the dynamically changing heterogeneous cells, a high throughput platform is urgently needed to establish single cell genotype-phenotype correlations. Herein, we report a platform combining single-cell viability phenotypic analysis with digital molecular detection for bacterial cells. The platform utilizes polyethylene glycol hydrogel that cross-links through a thiol-Michael addition, which is biocompatible, fast, and spontaneous. To generate uniform nanoliter-sized hydrogel beads (Gelbeads), we developed a convenient and disposable device made of needles and microcentrifuge tubes. Gelbead-based single cell viability and molecular detection assays were established. Enhanced thermal stability and uncompromised efficiency were achieved for digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and digital loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) within the Gelbeads. Reagent exchange for in situ PCR following viability phenotypic analyses was demonstrated. The combined analyses may address the genotypic differences between cellular subpopulations exhibiting distinct phenotypes. The platform promises unique perspectives in mechanism elucidation of environment-evolution interaction that may be extended to other cell types for medical research.

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