Genetic and transcriptional profiling, as well as surface marker identification of single circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have been demonstrated. However, quantitatively profiling of functional proteins at single CTC resolution has not yet been achieved, owing to the limited purity of the isolated CTC populations and a lack of single-cell proteomic approaches to handle and analyze rare CTCs. Here, we develop an integrated microfluidic system specifically designed for streamlining isolation, purification and single-cell secretomic profiling of CTCs from whole blood. Key to this platform is the use of photocleavable ssDNA-encoded antibody conjugates to enable a highly purified CTC population with <75'contaminated' blood cells. An enhanced poly-L-lysine barcode pattern is created on the single-cell barcode chip for efficient capture rare CTC cells in microchambers for subsequent secreted protein profiling. This system was extensively evaluated and optimized with EpCAM-positive HCT116 cells seeded into whole blood. Patient blood samples were employed to assess the utility of the system for isolation, purification and single-cell secretion profiling of CTCs. The CTCs present in patient blood samples exhibit highly heterogeneous secretion profile of IL-8 and VEGF. The numbers of secreting CTCs are found not in accordance with CTC enumeration based on immunostaining in the parallel experiments.
Deng, Yuliang, Yu Zhang, Shuai Sun, Zhihua Wang, Minjiao Wang, Beiqin Yu, Daniel M. Czajkowsky, Bingya Liu, Yan Li, Wei Wei