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A practical solution for preserving single cells for RNA sequencing

By Moustafa Attar, Eshita Sharma, Shuqiang Li, Claire Bryer, Laura Cubitt, John Broxholme, Helen Lockstone, James Kinchen, Alison Simmons, Paolo Piazza, David Buck, Kenneth J. Livak, Rory Bowden

Posted 25 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/160804 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-20372-7)

The design and implementation of single-cell experiments is often limited by their requirement for fresh starting material. We have adapted a method for histological tissue fixation using dithio-bis(succinimidyl propionate) (DSP), or Lomant's Reagent, to stabilise cell samples for single-cell transcriptomic applications. DSP is a reversible cross-linker of free amine groups that has previously been shown to preserve tissue integrity for histology while maintaining RNA integrity and yield in bulk RNA extractions. Although RNA-seq data from DSP-fixed single cells appears to be prone to characteristic artefacts, such as slightly reduced yield of cDNA and a detectable 3-prime bias in comparison with fresh cells, cell preservation using DSP does not appear to substantially reduce RNA complexity at the gene level. In addition, there is evidence that instantaneous fixation of cells can reduce inter-cell technical variability. The ability of DSP-fixed cells to retain commonly used dyes, such as propidium iodide, enables the tracking of experimental sub-populations and the recording of cell viability at the point of fixation. Preserving cells using DSP will remove several barriers in the staging of single-cell experiments, including the transport of samples and the scheduling of shared equipment for downstream single-cell isolation and processing.

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