A quantitative comparison of single-cell whole genome amplification methods

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 19;9(8):e105585. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105585. eCollection 2014.


Single-cell sequencing is emerging as an important tool for studies of genomic heterogeneity. Whole genome amplification (WGA) is a key step in single-cell sequencing workflows and a multitude of methods have been introduced. Here, we compare three state-of-the-art methods on both bulk and single-cell samples of E. coli DNA: Multiple Displacement Amplification (MDA), Multiple Annealing and Looping Based Amplification Cycles (MALBAC), and the PicoPLEX single-cell WGA kit (NEB-WGA). We considered the effects of reaction gain on coverage uniformity, error rates and the level of background contamination. We compared the suitability of the different WGA methods for the detection of copy-number variations, for the detection of single-nucleotide polymorphisms and for de-novo genome assembly. No single method performed best across all criteria and significant differences in characteristics were observed; the choice of which amplifier to use will depend strongly on the details of the type of question being asked in any given experiment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genomics / methods
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques / methods*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • DNA, Bacterial

Associated data

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