Microfluidic molecular assay platform for the detection of miRNAs, mRNAs, proteins, and posttranslational modifications at single-cell resolution

J Lab Autom. 2014 Dec;19(6):587-92. doi: 10.1177/2211068214542247. Epub 2014 Jul 15.


Cell signaling is a dynamic and complex process. A typical signaling pathway may begin with activation of cell surface receptors, leading to activation of a kinase cascade that culminates in induction of messenger RNA (mRNA) and noncoding microRNA (miRNA) production in the nucleus, followed by modulation of mRNA expression by miRNAs in the cytosol, and end with production of proteins in response to the signaling pathway. Signaling pathways involve proteins, miRNA, and mRNAs, along with various forms of transient posttranslational modifications, and detecting each type of signaling molecule requires categorically different sample preparation methods such as Western blotting for proteins, PCR for nucleic acids, and flow cytometry for posttranslational modifications. Since we know that cells in populations behave heterogeneously,(1) especially in the cases of stem cells, cancer, and hematopoiesis, there is need for a new technology that provides capability to detect and quantify multiple categories of signaling molecules in intact single cells to provide a comprehensive view of the cell's physiological state. In this Technology Brief, we describe our automated microfluidic platform with a portfolio of customized molecular assays that can detect nucleic acids, proteins, and posttranslational modifications in single intact cells with >95% reduction in reagent requirement in under 8 h.

Keywords: PTM; flow cytometry; imaging; mRNA; microRNA; microfluidics; multiplex; protein; single cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Automation, Laboratory / methods
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena
  • Cells / chemistry*
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • MicroRNAs
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger