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Universal Surface Biotinylation: a simple, versatile and cost-effective sample multiplexing method for single-cell RNA-seq analysis

Recent advances in single-cell analysis technology have made it possible to analyse tens of thousands of cells at a time. In addition, sample multiplexing techniques, which allow the analysis of several types of samples in a single run, are very useful for reducing experimental costs and improving experimental accuracy. However, a problem with this technique is that antigens and antibodies for universal labelling of various cell types may not be fully available. To overcome this issue, we developed a universal labelling technique, Universal Surface Biotinylation (USB), which does not depend on specific cell surface proteins. By introducing biotin into the amine group of any cell surface protein, we have obtained good labelling results in all the cell types we have tested. Combining with DNA-tagged streptavidin, it is possible to label each cell sample with specific DNA ‘hashtag’. Compared with the conventional cell hashing method, the USB procedure seemed to have no discernible adverse effect on the acquisition of the transcriptome in each cell, according to the model experiments using differentiating mouse embryonic stem cells. This method can be theoretically used for any type of cells, including cells to which the conventional cell hashing method has not been applied successfully.