Amplification of genes, single transcripts and cDNA libraries from one cell and direct sequence analysis of amplified products derived from one molecule

J Immunol Methods. 1996 Apr 19;190(2):199-213. doi: 10.1016/0022-1759(95)00277-4.


We report a procedure to generate and amplify cDNA libraries and to amplify and sequence genes and single RNA transcript molecules from the same cell without cloning. An absence of cloning steps minimizes potential sources of contamination, which can be especially problematic when working at the single cell level. Potential contamination is further reduced by an absence of any purification step prior to PCR amplification. Amplifications are designed to minimize the production of aberrant molecules in favor of full-length products, which is especially advantageous when generating cDNA libraries. Genes are amplified from isolated single nuclei, which are segregated from cytoplasmic lysates by microcentrifugation. Specific cDNA, total cDNA or both are synthesized from aliquots of the cytoplasmic lysate, and single cDNA molecules are isolated from others of the same species by limiting dilution prior to PCR amplification. In this way, the frequency of amplified products provides for a direct calculation of cDNA copy number by a Poisson analysis. Incorporation errors by Taq DNA polymerase occur at a low frequency and can be eliminated by sequencing independently amplified cDNA molecules from the same cell. Single molecule amplifications provide sufficient material for numerous (approximately 150) direct DNA sequencing reactions. The limiting dilution approach also permits sequence information to be obtained from a single cDNA, when highly related transcripts derived from distinct genes are present in the same cell and simultaneously amplified with the same primers. In sum, this method provides for a maximum amount of nucleic acid information to be extracted from one cell. It has a wide range of applications to studies of the immune system where, to a first approximation, each lymphocyte has a unique receptor identity, where specific states of differentiation may be difficult to assess in a mixed cell population, and where cell immortalization procedures are not always possible nor practical.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics*
  • Gene Library
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin
  • Hybridomas / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred A
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • RNA / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • beta 2-Microglobulin / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary
  • beta 2-Microglobulin
  • RNA