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Measuring expression heterogeneity of single-cell cytoskeletal protein complexes.

Abstract

Multimeric cytoskeletal protein complexes orchestrate normal cellular function. However, protein-complex distributions in stressed, heterogeneous cell populations remain unknown. Cell staining and proximity-based methods have limited selectivity and/or sensitivity for endogenous multimeric protein-complex quantification from single cells. We introduce micro-arrayed, differential detergent fractionation to simultaneously detect protein complexes in hundreds of individual cells. Fractionation occurs by 60 s size-exclusion electrophoresis with protein complex-stabilizing buffer that minimizes depolymerization. Proteins are measured with a ~5-hour immunoassay. Co-detection of cytoskeletal protein complexes in U2OS cells treated with filamentous actin (F-actin) destabilizing Latrunculin A detects a unique subpopulation (~2%) exhibiting downregulated F-actin, but upregulated microtubules. Thus, some cells may upregulate other cytoskeletal complexes to counteract the stress of Latrunculin A treatment. We also sought to understand the effect of non-chemical stress on cellular heterogeneity of F-actin. We find heat shock may dysregulate filamentous and globular actin correlation. In this work, our assay overcomes selectivity limitations to biochemically quantify single-cell protein complexes perturbed with diverse stimuli.

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