Kolisko M, Boscaro V, Burki F, Lynn DH, Keeling PJ
Curr. Biol. 24 (22) R1081-R1082 [2014-11-17; online 2014-11-17]
One of the greatest hindrances to a comprehensive understanding of microbial genomics, cell biology, ecology, and evolution is that most microbial life is not in culture. Solutions to this problem have mainly focused on whole-community surveys like metagenomics, but these analyses inevitably loose information and present particular challenges for eukaryotes, which are relatively rare and possess large, gene-sparse genomes. Single-cell analyses present an alternative solution that allows for specific species to be targeted, while retaining information on cellular identity, morphology, and partitioning of activities within microbial communities. Single-cell transcriptomics, pioneered in medical research, offers particular potential advantages for uncultivated eukaryotes, but the efficiency and biases have not been tested. Here we describe a simple and reproducible method for single-cell transcriptomics using manually isolated cells from five model ciliate species; we examine impacts of amplification bias and contamination, and compare the efficacy of gene discovery to traditional culture-based transcriptomics. Gene discovery using single-cell transcriptomes was found to be comparable to mass-culture methods, suggesting single-cell transcriptomics is an efficient entry point into genomic data from the vast majority of eukaryotic biodiversity.