A Rainbow Reporter Tracks Single Cells and Reveals Heterogeneous Cellular Dynamics among Pluripotent Stem Cells and Their Differentiated Derivatives

Stem Cell Reports. 2020 Jul 14;15(1):226-241. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2020.06.005. Epub 2020 Jul 2.


Single-cell transcriptomic approaches have found molecular heterogeneities within populations of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). A tool that tracks single-cell lineages and their phenotypes longitudinally would reveal whether heterogeneity extends beyond molecular identity. Hence, we generated a stable Cre-inducible rainbow reporter human PSC line that provides up to 18 unique membrane-targeted fluorescent barcodes. These barcodes enable repeated assessments of single cells as they clonally expand, change morphology, and migrate. Owing to the cellular resolution of this reporter, we identified subsets of PSCs with enhanced clonal expansion, synchronized cell divisions, and persistent localization to colony edges. Reporter expression was stably maintained throughout directed differentiation into cardiac myocytes, cortical neurons, and hepatoblasts. Repeated examination of neural differentiation revealed self-assembled cortical tissues derive from clonally dominant progenitors. Collectively, these findings demonstrate the broad utility and easy implementation of this reporter line for tracking single-cell behavior.

Keywords: clonal expansion; directed differentiation; human pluripotent stem cells; morphogenesis; neurogenesis; phenotypic heterogeneity; single-cell analysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Engineering
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Tracking*
  • Clone Cells
  • Genes, Reporter*
  • Germ Layers / cytology
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Morphogenesis
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*