gUMI-BEAR, a modular, unsupervised population barcoding method to track variants and evolution at high resolution

PLoS One. 2023 Jun 7;18(6):e0286696. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0286696. eCollection 2023.


Cellular lineage tracking provides a means to observe population makeup at the clonal level, allowing exploration of heterogeneity, evolutionary and developmental processes and individual clones' relative fitness. It has thus contributed significantly to understanding microbial evolution, organ differentiation and cancer heterogeneity, among others. Its use, however, is limited because existing methods are highly specific, expensive, labour-intensive, and, critically, do not allow the repetition of experiments. To address these issues, we developed gUMI-BEAR (genomic Unique Molecular Identifier Barcoded Enriched Associated Regions), a modular, cost-effective method for tracking populations at high resolution. We first demonstrate the system's application and resolution by applying it to track tens of thousands of Saccharomyces cerevisiae lineages growing together under varying environmental conditions applied across multiple generations, revealing fitness differences and lineage-specific adaptations. Then, we demonstrate how gUMI-BEAR can be used to perform parallel screening of a huge number of randomly generated variants of the Hsp82 gene. We further show how our method allows isolation of variants, even if their frequency in the population is low, thus enabling unsupervised identification of modifications that lead to a behaviour of interest.

MeSH terms

  • Clone Cells
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.