Directly monitoring the stress response of microbes to their environments could be one way to inspect the health of microorganisms themselves, as well as the environments in which the microorganisms live. The ultimate resolution for such an endeavor could be down to a single-cell level. In this study, using the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana as a model species, we aimed to measure gene expression responses of this organism to various stresses at a single-cell level. We developed a single-cell quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-qPCR) protocol and applied it to determine the expression levels of multiple selected genes under nitrogen, phosphate, and iron depletion stress conditions. The results, for the first time, provided a quantitative measurement of gene expression at single-cell levels in T. pseudonana and demonstrated that significant gene expression heterogeneity was present within the cell population. In addition, different expression patterns between single-cell- and bulk-cell-based analyses were also observed for all genes assayed in this study, suggesting that cell response heterogeneity needs to be taken into consideration in order to obtain accurate information that indicates the environmental stress condition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology