Single-cell western blotting

Nat Methods. 2014 Jul;11(7):749-55. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2992. Epub 2014 Jun 1.


To measure cell-to-cell variation in protein-mediated functions, we developed an approach to conduct ∼10(3) concurrent single-cell western blots (scWesterns) in ∼4 h. A microscope slide supporting a 30-μm-thick photoactive polyacrylamide gel enables western blotting: settling of single cells into microwells, lysis in situ, gel electrophoresis, photoinitiated blotting to immobilize proteins and antibody probing. We applied this scWestern method to monitor single-cell differentiation of rat neural stem cells and responses to mitogen stimulation. The scWestern quantified target proteins even with off-target antibody binding, multiplexed to 11 protein targets per single cell with detection thresholds of <30,000 molecules, and supported analyses of low starting cell numbers (∼200) when integrated with FACS. The scWestern overcomes limitations of antibody fidelity and sensitivity in other single-cell protein analysis methods and constitutes a versatile tool for the study of complex cell populations at single-cell resolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Neural Stem Cells / physiology
  • Rats
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins