Single-Cell RT-PCR in Microfluidic Droplets with Integrated Chemical Lysis

Anal Chem. 2018 Jan 16;90(2):1273-1279. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b04050. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


Droplet microfluidics can identify and sort cells using digital reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) signals from individual cells. However, current methods require multiple microfabricated devices for enzymatic cell lysis and PCR reagent addition, making the process complex and prone to failure. Here, we describe a new approach that integrates all components into a single device. The method enables controlled exposure of isolated single cells to a high pH buffer, which lyses cells and inactivates reaction inhibitors but can be instantly neutralized with RT-PCR buffer. Using our chemical lysis approach, we distinguish individual cells' gene expression with data quality equivalent to more complex two-step workflows. Our system accepts cells and produces droplets ready for amplification, making single-cell droplet RT-PCR faster and more reliable.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / instrumentation*