Exploring functional protein covariation across single cells using nPOP


Leduc A, Huffman RG, Cantlon J, Khan S, Slavov N. Exploring functional protein covariation across single cells using nPOP. bioRxiv. 2022.


Many biological processes, such as the cell division cycle, are reflected in protein covariation across single cells. This covariation can be quantified and interpreted by single-cell proteomics with sufficiently high throughput and accuracy. Toward this goal, we developed the nano-ProteOmic sample Preparation (nPOP) method for single-cell proteomics. nPOP uses piezo acoustic dispensing to isolate individual cells in 300 picoliter volumes and performs all subsequent preparation steps in small droplets on a fluorocarbon-coated slide. This design enables simultaneous sample preparation of thousands of single cells, including lysing, digesting, and labeling individual cells in volumes below 20 nl. We used nPOP to prepare 1,888 single cells and 128 negative controls in a single batch. Their analysis enabled quantifying the covariation between thousands of proteins and cell-cycle protein markers. Many protein sets covaried with the cell cycle similarly across all cell types and states, reflecting cell-type independent cell cycle functions. However, the cell cycle covariation of other protein sets differed markedly between cell types, even within subpopulation of melanoma cells expressing markers for drug-resistance priming. The cells expressing these markers accumulated in the G1 phase of the cell cycle and exhibited different covariation of enzymes catabolizing glucose. These results demonstrate that protein covariation across single cells may reveal functionally concerted biological differences between closely related cell states.Competing Interest StatementJoshua Cantlon is an employee of Scienion.