Scientists Use Open-Source Genetic Analysis Method in Plant Cells for the First Time
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
(Berkeley Lab) have successfully used an open-source RNA analysis platform
for the first time in an effort that could help engineer more efficient food
and biofuel crops.
Drop-seq, developed at Harvard Medical School in 2015, is a popular method
for measuring the RNA present in individual cells, allowing scientists to
see what genes are being expressed and how this relates to the specific
functions of different cell types. However, the freely shared protocol has
only been used in animal cells. Diane Dickel, a scientist from Berkeley Lab
pointed out that this is important in understanding plant biology. Dickel
said that plants, like humans and mice, have multiple cell and tissue types,
but unlike animals, plants have cell walls, which make it hard to open the
cells up for genetic study.
While Dickel was interested in using Drop-seq in plants, some were
skeptical. To run plants cells through a single-cell RNA-seq analysis, they
must be protoplasted, a process that will strip their cell walls using
enzymes. Dickel and her colleagues at DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)
teamed up with researchers from UC Davis who had perfected a protoplasting
technique for root tissue from Arabidopsis thaliana. After preparing samples
of more than 12,000 Arabidopsis root cells, the group was thrilled when the
Drop-seq process went smoother than expected.