Analyzing somatic mutations by single-cell whole-genome sequencing

Lei Zhang, Moonsook Lee, Alexander Y. Maslov, Cristina Montagna, Jan Vijg, Xiao Dong

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Somatic mutations are the cause of cancer and have been implicated in other, noncancerous diseases and aging. While clonally expanded mutations can be studied by deep sequencing of bulk DNA, very few somatic mutations expand clonally, and most are unique to each cell. We describe a detailed protocol for single-cell whole-genome sequencing to discover and analyze somatic mutations in tissues and organs. The protocol comprises single-cell multiple displacement amplification (SCMDA), which ensures efficiency and high fidelity in amplification, and the SCcaller software tool to call single-nucleotide variations and small insertions and deletions from the sequencing data by filtering out amplification artifacts. With SCMDA and SCcaller at its core, this protocol describes a complete procedure for the comprehensive analysis of somatic mutations in a single cell, covering (1) single-cell or nucleus isolation, (2) single-cell or nucleus whole-genome amplification, (3) library preparation and sequencing, and (4) computational analyses, including alignment, variant calling, and mutation burden estimation. Methods are also provided for mutation annotation, hotspot discovery and signature analysis. The protocol takes 12–15 h from single-cell isolation to library preparation and 3–7 d of data processing. Compared with other single-cell amplification methods or single-molecular sequencing, it provides high genomic coverage, high accuracy in single-nucleotide variation and small insertions and deletion calling from the same single-cell genome, and fewer processing steps. SCMDA and SCcaller require basic experience in molecular biology and bioinformatics. The protocol can be utilized for studying mutagenesis and genome mosaicism in normal and diseased human and animal tissues under various conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-516
Number of pages30
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

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