Analysis at the single-cell level is essential for the understanding of cellular responses in heterogeneous cell populations, but it has been difficult to perform because of the strict requirements put on detection methods with regard to selectivity and sensitivity (i.e., owing to the cross-reactivity of probes and limited signal amplification). Here we describe a 1.5-d protocol for enumerating and genotyping mRNA molecules in situ while simultaneously obtaining information on protein interactions or post-translational modifications; this is achieved by combining padlock probes with in situ proximity ligation assays (in situ PLA). In addition, we provide an example of how to design padlock probes and how to optimize staining conditions for fixed cells and tissue sections. Both padlock probes and in situ PLA provide the ability to directly visualize single molecules by standard microscopy in fixed cells or tissue sections, and these methods may thus be valuable for both research and diagnostic purposes.
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This work was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council, the Wallenberg Foundation and the EU FP7 projects 278568 (PRIMES), 259796 (DIATOOLS) and 201418 (READNA). B.K. is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ko 4345/1-1).
M.N. holds stock in Olink Bioscience, which holds the commercial rights to the padlock and proximity ligation assays.
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Weibrecht, I., Lundin, E., Kiflemariam, S. et al. In situ detection of individual mRNA molecules and protein complexes or post-translational modifications using padlock probes combined with the in situ proximity ligation assay. Nat Protoc 8, 355–372 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nprot.2013.006
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