ProBac-seq, a bacterial single-cell RNA sequencing methodology using droplet microfluidics and large oligonucleotide probe sets.

Nature protocols

Methods that measure the transcriptomic state of thousands of individual cells have transformed our understanding of cellular heterogeneity in eukaryotic cells since their introduction in the past decade. While simple and accessible protocols and commercial products are now available for the processing of mammalian cells, these existing technologies are incompatible with use in bacterial samples for several fundamental reasons including the absence of polyadenylation on bacterial messenger RNA, the instability of bacterial transcripts and the incompatibility of bacterial cell morphology with existing methodologies. Recently, we developed ProBac sequencing (ProBac-seq), a method that overcomes these technical difficulties and provides high-quality single-cell gene expression data from thousands of bacterial cells by using messenger RNA-specific probes. Here we provide details for designing large oligonucleotide probe sets for an organism of choice, amplifying probe sets to produce sufficient quantities for repeated experiments, adding unique molecular indexes and poly-A tails to produce finalized probes, in situ probe hybridization and single-cell encapsulation and library preparation. This protocol, from the probe amplification to the library preparation, requires ~7 d to complete. ProBac-seq offers several advantages over other methods by capturing only the desired target sequences and avoiding nondesired transcripts, such as highly abundant ribosomal RNA, thus enriching for signal that better informs on cellular state. The use of multiple probes per gene can detect meaningful single-cell signals from cells expressing transcripts to a lesser degree or those grown in minimal media and other environmentally relevant conditions in which cells are less active. ProBac-seq is also compatible with other organisms that can be profiled by in situ hybridization techniques.

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Nature protocols
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