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Tubular cell and keratinocyte single-cell transcriptomics applied to lupus nephritis reveal type I IFN and fibrosis relevant pathways

The molecular and cellular processes that lead to renal damage and to the heterogeneity of lupus nephritis (LN) are not well understood. We applied single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) to renal biopsies from patients with LN and evaluated skin biopsies as a potential source of diagnostic and prognostic markers of renal disease. Type I interferon (IFN)-response signatures in tubular cells and keratinocytes distinguished patients with LN from healthy control subjects. Moreover, a high IFN-response signature and fibrotic signature in tubular cells were each associated with failure to respond to treatment. Analysis of tubular cells from patients with proliferative, membranous and mixed LN indicated pathways relevant to inflammation and fibrosis, which offer insight into their histologic differences. In summary, we applied scRNA-seq to LN to deconstruct its heterogeneity and identify novel targets for personalized approaches to therapy.

Longitudinal single-cell RNA sequencing of patient-derived primary cells reveals drug-induced infidelity in stem cell hierarchy

Chemo-resistance is one of the major causes of cancer-related deaths. Here we used single-cell transcriptomics to investigate divergent modes of chemo-resistance in tumor cells. We observed that higher degree of phenotypic intra-tumor heterogeneity (ITH) favors selection of pre-existing drug-resistant cells, whereas phenotypically homogeneous cells engage covert epigenetic mechanisms to trans-differentiate under drug-selection. This adaptation was driven by selection-induced gain of H3K27ac marks on bivalently poised resistance-associated chromatin, and therefore not expressed in the treatment-naïve setting. Mechanistic interrogation of this phenomenon revealed that drug-induced adaptation was acquired upon the loss of stem factor SOX2, and a concomitant gain of SOX9. Strikingly we observed an enrichment of SOX9 at drug-induced H3K27ac sites, suggesting that tumor evolution could be driven by stem cell-switch-mediated epigenetic plasticity. Importantly, JQ1 mediated inhibition of BRD4 could reverse drug-induced adaptation. These results provide mechanistic insights into the modes of therapy-induced cellular plasticity and underscore the use of epigenetic inhibitors in targeting tumor evolution.

Molecular interrogation of hypothalamic organization reveals distinct dopamine neuronal subtypes

The hypothalamus contains the highest diversity of neurons in the brain. Many of these neurons can co-release neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in a use-dependent manner. Investigators have hitherto relied on candidate protein-based tools to correlate behavioral, endocrine and gender traits with hypothalamic neuron identity. Here we map neuronal identities in the hypothalamus by single-cell RNA sequencing. We distinguished 62 neuronal subtypes producing glutamatergic, dopaminergic or GABAergic markers for synaptic neurotransmission and harboring the ability to engage in task-dependent neurotransmitter switching. We identified dopamine neurons that uniquely coexpress the Onecut3 and Nmur2 genes, and placed these in the periventricular nucleus with many synaptic afferents arising from neuromedin S+ neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus. These neuroendocrine dopamine cells may contribute to the dopaminergic inhibition of prolactin secretion diurnally, as their neuromedin S+ inputs originate from neurons expressing Per2 and Per3 and their tyrosine hydroxylase phosphorylation is regulated in a circadian fashion. Overall, our catalog of neuronal subclasses provides new understanding of hypothalamic organization and function.

Single-cell multi-omic integration compares and contrasts features of brain cell identity (GSE126836_BNST)

Defining cell types requires integrating diverse single-cell measurements from multiple experiments and biological contexts. To flexibly model single-cell datasets, we developed LIGER, an algorithm that delineates shared and dataset-specific features of cell identity. We applied it to four diverse and challenging analyses of human and mouse brain cells. First, we defined region-specific and sexually dimorphic gene expression in the mouse bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Second, we analyzed expression in the human substantia nigra, comparing cell states in specific donors and relating cell types to those in the mouse. Third, we integrated in situ and single-cell expression data to spatially locate fine subtypes of cells present in the mouse frontal cortex. Finally, we jointly defined mouse cortical cell types using single-cell RNA-seq and DNA methylation profiles, revealing putative mechanisms of cell-type-specific epigenomic regulation. Integrative analyses using LIGER promise to accelerate investigations of cell-type definition, gene regulation, and disease states.

Single-cell multi-omic integration compares and contrasts features of brain cell identity (GSE126836_SN)

Defining cell types requires integrating diverse single-cell measurements from multiple experiments and biological contexts. To flexibly model single-cell datasets, we developed LIGER, an algorithm that delineates shared and dataset-specific features of cell identity. We applied it to four diverse and challenging analyses of human and mouse brain cells. First, we defined region-specific and sexually dimorphic gene expression in the mouse bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Second, we analyzed expression in the human substantia nigra, comparing cell states in specific donors and relating cell types to those in the mouse. Third, we integrated in situ and single-cell expression data to spatially locate fine subtypes of cells present in the mouse frontal cortex. Finally, we jointly defined mouse cortical cell types using single-cell RNA-seq and DNA methylation profiles, revealing putative mechanisms of cell-type-specific epigenomic regulation. Integrative analyses using LIGER promise to accelerate investigations of cell-type definition, gene regulation, and disease states.

Lipid-associated macrophages control metabolic homeostasis in a Trem2-dependent manner

Immune cells residing in white adipose tissue have been highlighted as important factors contributing to the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases, but the molecular regulators that drive adipose tissue immune cell remodeling during obesity remain largely unknown. Using index and transcriptional single-cell sorting, we comprehensively map all adipose tissue immune populations in both mice and humans during obesity. We describe a novel and conserved Trem2 + lipid-associated macrophage (LAM) subset and identify markers, spatial localization, origin, and functional pathways associated with these cells. Genetic ablation of Trem2 in mice globally inhibits the downstream molecular LAM program, leading to adipocyte hypertrophy as well as systemic hypercholesterolemia, body fat accumulation, and glucose intolerance. These findings identify Trem2 signaling as a major pathway by which macrophages respond to loss of tissue-level lipid homeostasis, highlighting Trem2 as a key sensor of metabolic pathologies across multiple tissues and a potential therapeutic target in metabolic diseases.

Single-cell transcriptomics of a human kidney allograft biopsy specimen defines a diverse inflammatory response

ackground: Single-cell genomics techniques are revolutionizing our ability to characterize complex tissues. By contrast, the techniques used to analyze renal biopsy specimens have changed little over several decades. We tested the hypothesis that single-cell RNA-sequencing can comprehensively describe cell types and states in a human kidney biopsy specimen. Methods: We generated 8746 single-cell transcriptomes from a healthy adult kidney and a single kidney transplant biopsy core by single-cell RNA-sequencing. Unsupervised clustering analysis of the biopsy specimen was performed to identify 16 distinct cell types, including all of the major immune cell types and most native kidney cell types, in this biopsy specimen, for which the histologic read was mixed rejection. Results: Monocytes formed two subclusters representing a nonclassical CD16+ group and a classic CD16− group expressing dendritic cell maturation markers. The presence of both monocyte cell subtypes was validated by staining of independent transplant biopsy specimens. Comparison of healthy kidney epithelial transcriptomes with biopsy specimen counterparts identified novel segment-specific proinflammatory responses in rejection. Endothelial cells formed three distinct subclusters: resting cells and two activated endothelial cell groups. One activated endothelial cell group expressed Fc receptor pathway activation and Ig internalization genes, consistent with the pathologic diagnosis of antibody-mediated rejection. We mapped previously defined genes that associate with rejection outcomes to single cell types and generated a searchable online gene expression database. Conclusions: We present the first step toward incorporation of single-cell transcriptomics into kidney biopsy specimen interpretation, describe a heterogeneous immune response in mixed rejection, and provide a searchable resource for the scientific community.

Decoding human fetal liver haematopoiesis

Definitive haematopoiesis in the fetal liver supports self-renewal and differentiation of haematopoietic stem cells and multipotent progenitors (HSC/MPPs) but remains poorly defined in humans. Here, using single-cell transcriptome profiling of approximately 140,000 liver and 74,000 skin, kidney and yolk sac cells, we identify the repertoire of human blood and immune cells during development. We infer differentiation trajectories from HSC/MPPs and evaluate the influence of the tissue microenvironment on blood and immune cell development. We reveal physiological erythropoiesis in fetal skin and the presence of mast cells, natural killer and innate lymphoid cell precursors in the yolk sac. We demonstrate a shift in the haemopoietic composition of fetal liver during gestation away from being predominantly erythroid, accompanied by a parallel change in differentiation potential of HSC/MPPs, which we functionally validate. Our integrated map of fetal liver haematopoiesis provides a blueprint for the study of paediatric blood and immune disorders, and a reference for harnessing the therapeutic potential of HSC/MPPs.

A single-cell RNA-seq survey of the developmental landscape of the human prefrontal cortex

The mammalian prefrontal cortex comprises a set of highly specialized brain areas containing billions of cells and serves as the centre of the highest-order cognitive functions, such as memory, cognitive ability, decision-making and social behaviour1,2. Although neural circuits are formed in the late stages of human embryonic development and even after birth, diverse classes of functional cells are generated and migrate to the appropriate locations earlier in development. Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex contributes to cognitive deficits and the majority of neurodevelopmental disorders; there is therefore a need for detailed knowledge of the development of the prefrontal cortex. However, it is still difficult to identify cell types in the developing human prefrontal cortex and to distinguish their developmental features. Here we analyse more than 2,300 single cells in the developing human prefrontal cortex from gestational weeks 8 to 26 using RNA sequencing. We identify 35 subtypes of cells in six main classes and trace the developmental trajectories of these cells. Detailed analysis of neural progenitor cells highlights new marker genes and unique developmental features of intermediate progenitor cells. We also map the timeline of neurogenesis of excitatory neurons in the prefrontal cortex and detect the presence of interneuron progenitors in early developing prefrontal cortex. Moreover, we reveal the intrinsic development-dependent signals that regulate neuron generation and circuit formation using single-cell transcriptomic data analysis. Our screening and characterization approach provides a blueprint for understanding the development of the human prefrontal cortex in the early and mid-gestational stages in order to systematically dissect the cellular basis and molecular regulation of prefrontal cortex function in humans.

Defining inflammatory cell states in rheumatoid arthritis joint synovial tissues by integrating single-cell transcriptomics and mass cytometry.

To define the cell populations that drive joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we applied single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), mass cytometry, bulk RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and flow cytometry to T cells, B cells, monocytes, and fibroblasts from 51 samples of synovial tissue from patients with RA or osteoarthritis (OA). Utilizing an integrated strategy based on canonical correlation analysis of 5,265 scRNA-seq profiles, we identified 18 unique cell populations. Combining mass cytometry and transcriptomics revealed cell states expanded in RA synovia: THY1(CD90)+HLA-DRAhi sublining fibroblasts, IL1B+ pro-inflammatory monocytes, ITGAX+TBX21+ autoimmune-associated B cells and PDCD1+ peripheral helper T (TPH) cells and follicular helper T (TFH) cells. We defined distinct subsets of CD8+ T cells characterized by GZMK+, GZMB+, and GNLY+ phenotypes. We mapped inflammatory mediators to their source cell populations; for example, we attributed IL6 expression to THY1+HLA-DRAhi fibroblasts and IL1B production to pro-inflammatory monocytes. These populations are potentially key mediators of RA pathogenesis.

Landscape of infiltrating T cells in liver cancer revealed by single-cell sequencing

Systematic interrogation of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes is key to the development of immunotherapies and the prediction of their clinical responses in cancers. Here, we perform deep single-cell RNA sequencing on 5,063 single T cells isolated from peripheral blood, tumor, and adjacent normal tissues from six hepatocellular carcinoma patients. The transcriptional profiles of these individual cells, coupled with assembled T cell receptor (TCR) sequences, enable us to identify 11 T cell subsets based on their molecular and functional properties and delineate their developmental trajectory. Specific subsets such as exhausted CD8+ T cells and Tregs are preferentially enriched and potentially clonally expanded in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and we identified signature genes for each subset. One of the genes, layilin, is upregulated on activated CD8+ T cells and Tregs and represses the CD8+ T cell functions in vitro. This compendium of transcriptome data provides valuable insights and a rich resource for understanding the immune landscape in cancers.

Lineage tracking reveals dynamic relationships of T cells in colorectal cancer

T cells are key elements of cancer immunotherapy1 but certain fundamental properties, such as the development and migration of T cells within tumours, remain unknown. The enormous T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire, which is required for the recognition of foreign and self-antigens2, could serve as lineage tags to track these T cells in tumours3. Here we obtained transcriptomes of 11,138 single T cells from 12 patients with colorectal cancer, and developed single T cell analysis by RNA sequencing and TCR tracking (STARTRAC) indices to quantitatively analyse the dynamic relationships among 20 identified T cell subsets with distinct functions and clonalities. Although both CD8+ effector and ‘exhausted’ T cells exhibited high clonal expansion, they were independently connected with tumour-resident CD8+ effector memory cells, implicating a TCR-based fate decision. Of the CD4+ T cells, most tumour-infiltrating T regulatory (Treg) cells showed clonal exclusivity, whereas certain Treg cell clones were developmentally linked to several T helper (TH) cell clones. Notably, we identified two IFNG+ TH1-like cell clusters in tumours that were associated with distinct IFNγ-regulating transcription factors —the GZMK+ effector memory T cells, which were associated with EOMES and RUNX3, and CXCL13+BHLHE40+ TH1-like cell clusters, which were associated with BHLHE40. Only CXCL13+BHLHE40+ TH1-like cells were preferentially enriched in patients with microsatellite-instable tumours, and this might explain their favourable responses to immune-checkpoint blockade. Furthermore, IGFLR1 was highly expressed in both CXCL13+BHLHE40+ TH1-like cells and CD8+ exhausted T cells and possessed co-stimulatory functions. Our integrated STARTRAC analyses provide a powerful approach to dissect the T cell properties in colorectal cancer comprehensively, and could provide insights into the dynamic relationships of T cells in other cancers.

Single cell analysis of crohn's disease lesions identifies a pathogenic cellular module associated with resistance to anti-TNF therapy

Clinical benefits of cytokine blockade in ileal Crohn’s disease (iCD) are limited to a subset of patients. Here, we applied single-cell technologies to iCD lesions to address whether cellular heterogeneity contributes to treatment resistance. We found that a subset of patients expressed a unique cellular module in inflamed tissues that consisted of IgG plasma cells, inflammatory mononuclear phagocytes, activated T cells, and stromal cells, which we named the GIMATS module. Analysis of ligand-receptor interaction pairs identified a distinct network connectivity that likely drives the GIMATS module. Strikingly, the GIMATS module was also present in a subset of patients in four independent iCD cohorts (n = 441), and its presence at diagnosis correlated with failure to achieve durable corticosteroid-free remission upon anti-TNF therapy. These results emphasize the limitations of current diagnostic assays and the potential for single-cell mapping tools to identify novel biomarkers of treatment response and tailored therapeutic opportunities.

Resolving the fibrotic niche of human liver cirrhosis using single-cell transcriptomics (mouse)

Currently there are no effective antifibrotic therapies for liver cirrhosis, a major killer worldwide. To obtain a cellular resolution of directly relevant pathogenesis and to inform therapeutic design, we profile the transcriptomes of over 100,000 human single cells, yielding molecular definitions for non-parenchymal cell types present in healthy and cirrhotic human liver. We uncover a novel scar-associated TREM2+CD9+ macrophage subpopulation, which expands in liver fibrosis, differentiates from circulating monocytes and is pro-fibrogenic. We also define novel ACKR1+ and PLVAP+ endothelial cells that expand in cirrhosis, are topographically scar-restricted and enhance leucocyte transmigration. Multi-lineage ligand-receptor modelling of interactions between the novel scar-associated macrophages, endothelial cells and PDGFRα+ collagen-producing mesenchymal cells reveals intra-scar activity of several pro-fibrogenic pathways including TNFRSF12A, PDGFR and NOTCH signalling. Our work dissects unanticipated aspects of the cellular and molecular basis of human organ fibrosis at a single-cell level, and provides the conceptual framework required to discover rational therapeutic targets in liver cirrhosis.

Resolving the fibrotic niche of human liver cirrhosis at single-cell level (human)

Currently there are no effective antifibrotic therapies for liver cirrhosis, a major killer worldwide. To obtain a cellular resolution of directly relevant pathogenesis and to inform therapeutic design, we profile the transcriptomes of over 100,000 human single cells, yielding molecular definitions for non-parenchymal cell types present in healthy and cirrhotic human liver. We uncover a novel scar-associated TREM2+CD9+ macrophage subpopulation, which expands in liver fibrosis, differentiates from circulating monocytes and is pro-fibrogenic. We also define novel ACKR1+ and PLVAP+ endothelial cells that expand in cirrhosis, are topographically scar-restricted and enhance leucocyte transmigration. Multi-lineage ligand-receptor modelling of interactions between the novel scar-associated macrophages, endothelial cells and PDGFRα+ collagen-producing mesenchymal cells reveals intra-scar activity of several pro-fibrogenic pathways including TNFRSF12A, PDGFR and NOTCH signalling. Our work dissects unanticipated aspects of the cellular and molecular basis of human organ fibrosis at a single-cell level, and provides the conceptual framework required to discover rational therapeutic targets in liver cirrhosis.