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A method for manual and automated multiplex RNAscope in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry on cytospin samples

Authors: Chan, Sara; de L’Etang, Audrey Filézac; Rangell, Linda; Caplazi, Patrick; Lowe, John B.; Romeo, Valentina

Online: https://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207619

Issue: PLoS One. 2018 Nov 20;13(11):e0207619.


In situ analysis of biomarkers is essential for clinical diagnosis and research purposes. The increasing need to understand the molecular signature of pathologies has led to the blooming of ultrasensitive and multiplexable techniques that combine in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemistry or immunocytochemistry (IHC or ICC). Most protocols are tailored to formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissue sections. However, methods to perform such assays on non-adherent cell samples, such as patient blood-derived PBMCs, rare tumor samples, effusions or other body fluids, dissociated or sorted cells, are limited. Typically, a laboratory would need to invest a significant amount of time and resources to establish one such assay. Here, we describe a method that combines ultrasensitive RNAscope-ISH with ICC on cytospin cell preparations. This method allows automated, sensitive, multiplex ISH-ICC on small numbers of non-adherent cells. We provide guidelines for both chromogenic and fluorescent ISH/ICC combinations that can be performed either in fully automated or in manual settings. By using a CD8+ T cells in vitro stimulation paradigm, we demonstrate that this protocol is sensitive enough to detect subtle differences in gene expression and compares well to commonly used methods such as RT-qPCR and flow cytometry with the added benefit of visualization at the cellular level.