Finding cell-specific expression patterns in the early Ciona embryo with single-cell RNA-seq.

Single-cell RNA-seq has been established as a reliable and accessible technique enabling new types of analyses, such as identifying cell types and studying spatial and temporal gene expression variation and change at single-cell resolution. Recently, single-cell RNA-seq has been applied to developing embryos, which offers great potential for finding and characterising genes controlling the course of development along with their expression patterns. In this study, we applied single-cell RNA-seq to the 16-cell stage of the Ciona embryo, a marine chordate and performed a computational search for cell-specific gene expression patterns. We recovered many known expression patterns from our single-cell RNA-seq data and despite extensive previous screens, we succeeded in finding new cell-specific patterns, which we validated by in situ and single-cell qPCR.