Immunophenotyping with (phospho)protein profiling and fluorescent cell barcoding for single-cell signaling analysis and biomarker discovery

NPJ Precis Oncol. 2024 May 20;8(1):107. doi: 10.1038/s41698-024-00604-y.


The microenvironment of hematologic cancers contributes to tumor cell survival and proliferation, as well as treatment resistance. Understanding tumor- and drug-induced changes to the immune cell composition and functionality is therefore critical for implementing optimal treatment strategies and for the development of novel cancer therapies. The liquid nature of peripheral blood makes this organ uniquely suited for single-cell studies by flow cytometry. (Phospho)protein profiles detected by flow cytometry analyses have been shown to correlate with ex vivo drug sensitivity and to predict treatment outcomes in hematologic cancers, demonstrating that this method is suitable for pre-clinical studies. Here, we present a flow cytometry protocol that combines multi-parameter immunophenotyping with single-cell (phospho)protein profiling. The protocol makes use of fluorescent cell barcoding, which means that multiple cell samples, either collected from different donors or exposed to different treatment conditions, can be combined and analyzed as one experiment. This reduces variability between samples, increases the throughput of the experiment, and lowers experimental costs. This protocol may serve as a guide for the use and further development of assays to study immunophenotype and cell signaling at single-cell resolution in normal and malignant cells. The read-outs may provide biological insight into cancer pathogenesis, identify novel drug targets, and ultimately serve as a biomarker to guide clinical decision-making.

Publication types

  • Review