Expression profiling of single mammalian cells--small is beautiful

G Brady


Increasingly mRNA expression patterns established using a variety of molecular technologies such as cDNA microarrays, SAGE and cDNA display are being used to identify potential regulatory genes and as a means of providing valuable insights into the biological status of the starting sample. Until recently, the application of these techniques has been limited to mRNA isolated from millions or, at very best, several thousand cells thereby restricting the study of small samples and complex tissues. To overcome this limitation a variety of amplification approaches have been developed which are capable of broadly evaluating mRNA expression patterns in single cells. This review will describe approaches that have been employed to examine global gene expression patterns either in small numbers of cells or, wherever possible, in actual isolated single cells. The first half of the review will summarize the technical aspects of methods developed for single-cell analysis and the latter half of the review will describe the areas of biological research that have benefited from single-cell expression analysis.


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