Single-Cell Transcriptome Analysis of Colon Cancer Cell Response to 5-Fluorouracil-Induced DNA Damage

Cell Rep. 2020 Aug 25;32(8):108077. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108077.


DNA damage often induces heterogeneous cell-fate responses, such as cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis. Through single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), we characterize the transcriptome response of cultured colon cancer cell lines to 5-fluorouracil (5FU)-induced DNA damage. After 5FU treatment, a single population of colon cancer cells adopts three distinct transcriptome phenotypes, which correspond to diversified cell-fate responses: apoptosis, cell-cycle checkpoint, and stress resistance. Although some genes are regulated uniformly across all groups of cells, many genes showed group-specific expression patterns mediating DNA damage responses specific to the corresponding cell fate. Some of these observations are reproduced at the protein level by flow cytometry and are replicated in cells treated with other 5FU-unrelated genotoxic drugs, camptothecin and etoposide. This work provides a resource for understanding heterogeneous DNA damage responses involving fractional killing and chemoresistance, which are among the major challenges in current cancer chemotherapy.

Keywords: 5-fluorouracil; DNA damage; Drop-seq; apoptosis; cell cycle checkpoint; scRNA-seq; single cell; stress response; transcriptome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • DNA Damage / genetics*
  • Fluorouracil / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Transcriptome / genetics*


  • Fluorouracil