Advances in single-cell RNA sequencing and its applications in cancer research

Sibo Zhu, Tao Qing, Yuanting Zheng and Leming Shi _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:53763-53779. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17893

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Sibo Zhu1,2, Tao Qing1,2, Yuanting Zheng1,2, Li Jin1,2 and Leming Shi1,2

1Center for Pharmacogenomics, School of Life Sciences and Shanghai Cancer Center, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200438, China

2Collaborative Innovation Center of Genetics and Development, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200438, China

Correspondence to:

Leming Shi, email: lemingshi@fudan.edu.cn

Li Jin, email: lijin@fudan.edu.cn

Keywords: single cell, RNA sequencing, tumor, circulating tumor cell

Received: March 03, 2017     Accepted: April 24, 2017     Published: May 16, 2017


Unlike population-level approaches, single-cell RNA sequencing enables transcriptomic analysis of an individual cell. Through the combination of high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatic tools, single-cell RNA-seq can detect more than 10,000 transcripts in one cell to distinguish cell subsets and dynamic cellular changes. After several years’ development, single-cell RNA-seq can now achieve massively parallel, full-length mRNA sequencing as well as in situ sequencing and even has potential for multi-omic detection. One appealing area of single-cell RNA-seq is cancer research, and it is regarded as a promising way to enhance prognosis and provide more precise target therapy by identifying druggable subclones. Indeed, progresses have been made regarding solid tumor analysis to reveal intratumoral heterogeneity, correlations between signaling pathways, stemness, drug resistance, and tumor architecture shaping the microenvironment. Furthermore, through investigation into circulating tumor cells, many genes have been shown to promote a propensity toward stemness and the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, to enhance anchoring and adhesion, and to be involved in mechanisms of anoikis resistance and drug resistance. This review focuses on advances and progresses of single-cell RNA-seq with regard to the following aspects:

1. Methodologies of single-cell RNA-seq

2. Single-cell isolation techniques

3. Single-cell RNA-seq in solid tumor research

4. Single-cell RNA-seq in circulating tumor cell research

5. Perspectives

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