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Gene profiling in the avian embryo using laser capture microdissection and RT-qPCR

Morrison, J.A., Bailey, C.M., Kulesa, P.M.

The dynamic nature of the developing embryo makes it challenging to understand complex morphogenetic events using information from large-scale gene expression patterns. What would be more insightful is molecular profiling of small numbers of cells selectively surveyed at specific developmental stages. However, detecting gene expression profile information from small numbers of cells (<10) in homogenous tissue has remained a major challenge. Here, we describe the use of laser capture microdissection (LCM), immunohistochemistry (IHC), and RT-qPCR to extract gene profile information in distinct embryo tissue more precisely than is possible with any other method. We use the chick embryo model system and combine electroporation and dual-label IHC to specifically identify cells for harvest by LCM without significant degradation of total RNA. We describe the development of a pre-amplification protocol for small subpopulations of cells to produce sensitive RT-qPCR results. The gene-specific pre-amplification efficiently and linearly amplifies only gene transcripts of interest from the harvested material without the need for RNA isolation. By combining the above techniques with microfluidic RT-qPCR, we robustly analyze the expression of ∼300 genes from as few as 10 cells harvested by LCM. Together, this protocol presents a confident isolation and means of sensitive expression analysis of small cell numbers from tissues and overcomes a technical hurdle that limits gene profiling.

Citation

Morrison, J.A., Bailey, C.M., Kulesa, P.M. "Gene profiling in the avian embryo using laser capture microdissection and RT-qPCR" Cold Spring Harbor Protocols (2012): doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/pdb.prot072140