Alternative mRNA isoform usage is an important source of protein diversity in mammalian cells. This phenomenon has been extensively studied in bulk tissues, however, it remains unclear how this diversity is reflected in single cells.Here we use long-read sequencing technology combined with unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) to reveal patterns of alternative full-length isoform expression in single cells from the mouse brain. We found a surprising amount of isoform diversity, even after applying a conservative definition of what constitutes an isoform. Genes tend to have one or a few isoforms highly expressed and a larger number of isoforms expressed at a low level. However, for many genes, nearly every sequenced mRNA molecule was unique, and many events affected coding regions suggesting previously unknown protein diversity in single cells. Exon junctions in coding regions were less prone to splicing errors than those in non-coding regions, indicating purifying selection on splice donor and acceptor efficiency.Our findings indicate that mRNA isoform diversity is an important source of biological variability also in single cells.
Journal: BMC genomics