Spatial transcriptomics has been widely used to capture gene expression profiles, realised as a two-dimensional (2D) projection of RNA captured from tissue sections. Three-dimensional (3D) cultures such as spheroids and organoids are highly promising alternatives to oversimplified and homogeneous 2D cell culture models, but existing spatial transcriptomic platforms do not currently have sufficient resolution for robust analysis of 3D cultures. We present a transfection-based method for fluorescent DNA barcoding of cell populations, and the subsequent construction of spheroidal cellular architectures using barcoded cells in a layer-by-layer approach. For the first time, changes in gene expression throughout this 3D culture architecture are interrogated using multiplex single-cell RNA sequencing in which DNA barcodes are used to encode the spatial positioning of cells. We show that transfection with fluorophore-conjugated barcode oligonucleotides enables both imaging and sequencing at single-cell resolution, providing spatial maps of gene expression and drug response. Additionally, we show that fluorophore-conjugated DNA barcodes support correlative imaging studies such as mechano-microscopy to capture information about spatially-varying mechanical heterogeneity in 3D cultures. We ability to create customised, encoded cellular assemblies is a general approach that can resolve spatial differences in gene expression in 3D cell culture models.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2023


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