Commun Biol 4 (1) 624 [2021-05-25; online 2021-05-25]
Combined measurements of mRNA and protein expression in single cells enable in-depth analysis of cellular states. We present SPARC, an approach that combines single-cell RNA-sequencing with proximity extension essays to simultaneously measure global mRNA and 89 intracellular proteins in individual cells. We show that mRNA expression fails to accurately reflect protein abundance at the time of measurement, although the direction of changes is in agreement during neuronal differentiation. Moreover, protein levels of transcription factors better predict their downstream effects than do their corresponding transcripts. Finally, we highlight that protein expression variation is overall lower than mRNA variation, but relative protein variation does not reflect the mRNA level. Our results demonstrate that mRNA and protein measurements in single cells provide different and complementary information regarding cell states. SPARC presents a state-of-the-art co-profiling method that overcomes current limitations in throughput and protein localization, including removing the need for cell fixation.