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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.

Intra-and inter-cellular rewiring of the human colon during ulcerative colitis (fibroblasts)

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have revealed risk alleles for ulcerative colitis (UC). To understand their cell type specificities and pathways of action, we generate an atlas of 366,650 cells from the colon mucosa of 18 UC patients and 12 healthy individuals, revealing 51 epithelial, stromal, and immune cell subsets, including BEST4 + enterocytes, microfold-like cells, and IL13RA2 + IL11 + inflammatory fibroblasts, which we associate with resistance to anti-TNF treatment. Inflammatory fibroblasts, inflammatory monocytes, microfold-like cells, and T cells that co-express CD8 and IL-17 expand with disease, forming intercellular interaction hubs. Many UC risk genes are cell type specific and co-regulated within relatively few gene modules, suggesting convergence onto limited sets of cell types and pathways. Using this observation, we nominate and infer functions for specific risk genes across GWAS loci. Our work provides a framework for interrogating complex human diseases and mapping risk variants to cell types and pathways.

Intra-and inter-cellular rewiring of the human colon during ulcerative colitis (epithelial cells)

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have revealed risk alleles for ulcerative colitis (UC). To understand their cell type specificities and pathways of action, we generate an atlas of 366,650 cells from the colon mucosa of 18 UC patients and 12 healthy individuals, revealing 51 epithelial, stromal, and immune cell subsets, including BEST4 + enterocytes, microfold-like cells, and IL13RA2 + IL11 + inflammatory fibroblasts, which we associate with resistance to anti-TNF treatment. Inflammatory fibroblasts, inflammatory monocytes, microfold-like cells, and T cells that co-express CD8 and IL-17 expand with disease, forming intercellular interaction hubs. Many UC risk genes are cell type specific and co-regulated within relatively few gene modules, suggesting convergence onto limited sets of cell types and pathways. Using this observation, we nominate and infer functions for specific risk genes across GWAS loci. Our work provides a framework for interrogating complex human diseases and mapping risk variants to cell types and pathways.

Intra-and inter-cellular rewiring of the human colon during ulcerative colitis (immune cells)

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have revealed risk alleles for ulcerative colitis (UC). To understand their cell type specificities and pathways of action, we generate an atlas of 366,650 cells from the colon mucosa of 18 UC patients and 12 healthy individuals, revealing 51 epithelial, stromal, and immune cell subsets, including BEST4 + enterocytes, microfold-like cells, and IL13RA2 + IL11 + inflammatory fibroblasts, which we associate with resistance to anti-TNF treatment. Inflammatory fibroblasts, inflammatory monocytes, microfold-like cells, and T cells that co-express CD8 and IL-17 expand with disease, forming intercellular interaction hubs. Many UC risk genes are cell type specific and co-regulated within relatively few gene modules, suggesting convergence onto limited sets of cell types and pathways. Using this observation, we nominate and infer functions for specific risk genes across GWAS loci. Our work provides a framework for interrogating complex human diseases and mapping risk variants to cell types and pathways.

Single-cell transcriptomic analysis of human lung provides insights into the pathobiology of pulmonary fibrosis (lung)

Rationale: The contributions of diverse cell populations in the human lung to pulmonary fibrosis pathogenesis are poorly understood. Single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal changes within individual cell populations during pulmonary fibrosis that are important for disease pathogenesis. Objectives: To determine whether single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal disease-related heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages, epithelial cells, or other cell types in lung tissue from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis compared with control subjects. Methods: We performed single-cell RNA sequencing on lung tissue obtained from eight transplant donors and eight recipients with pulmonary fibrosis and on one bronchoscopic cryobiospy sample from a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We validated these data using in situ RNA hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and bulk RNA-sequencing on flow-sorted cells from 22 additional subjects. Measurements and Main Results: We identified a distinct, novel population of profibrotic alveolar macrophages exclusively in patients with fibrosis. Within epithelial cells, the expression of genes involved in Wnt secretion and response was restricted to nonoverlapping cells. We identified rare cell populations including airway stem cells and senescent cells emerging during pulmonary fibrosis. We developed a web-based tool to explore these data. Conclusions: We generated a single-cell atlas of pulmonary fibrosis. Using this atlas, we demonstrated heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. These results support the feasibility of discovery-based approaches using next-generation sequencing technologies to identify signaling pathways for targeting in the development of personalized therapies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

Single-cell transcriptomic analysis of human lung provides insights into the pathobiology of pulmonary fibrosis (epithelial cells)

Rationale: The contributions of diverse cell populations in the human lung to pulmonary fibrosis pathogenesis are poorly understood. Single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal changes within individual cell populations during pulmonary fibrosis that are important for disease pathogenesis. Objectives: To determine whether single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal disease-related heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages, epithelial cells, or other cell types in lung tissue from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis compared with control subjects. Methods: We performed single-cell RNA sequencing on lung tissue obtained from eight transplant donors and eight recipients with pulmonary fibrosis and on one bronchoscopic cryobiospy sample from a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We validated these data using in situ RNA hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and bulk RNA-sequencing on flow-sorted cells from 22 additional subjects. Measurements and Main Results: We identified a distinct, novel population of profibrotic alveolar macrophages exclusively in patients with fibrosis. Within epithelial cells, the expression of genes involved in Wnt secretion and response was restricted to nonoverlapping cells. We identified rare cell populations including airway stem cells and senescent cells emerging during pulmonary fibrosis. We developed a web-based tool to explore these data. Conclusions: We generated a single-cell atlas of pulmonary fibrosis. Using this atlas, we demonstrated heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. These results support the feasibility of discovery-based approaches using next-generation sequencing technologies to identify signaling pathways for targeting in the development of personalized therapies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

Single-cell transcriptomic analysis of human lung provides insights into the pathobiology of pulmonary fibrosis (cryobiopsy)

Rationale: The contributions of diverse cell populations in the human lung to pulmonary fibrosis pathogenesis are poorly understood. Single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal changes within individual cell populations during pulmonary fibrosis that are important for disease pathogenesis. Objectives: To determine whether single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal disease-related heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages, epithelial cells, or other cell types in lung tissue from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis compared with control subjects. Methods: We performed single-cell RNA sequencing on lung tissue obtained from eight transplant donors and eight recipients with pulmonary fibrosis and on one bronchoscopic cryobiospy sample from a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We validated these data using in situ RNA hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and bulk RNA-sequencing on flow-sorted cells from 22 additional subjects. Measurements and Main Results: We identified a distinct, novel population of profibrotic alveolar macrophages exclusively in patients with fibrosis. Within epithelial cells, the expression of genes involved in Wnt secretion and response was restricted to nonoverlapping cells. We identified rare cell populations including airway stem cells and senescent cells emerging during pulmonary fibrosis. We developed a web-based tool to explore these data. Conclusions: We generated a single-cell atlas of pulmonary fibrosis. Using this atlas, we demonstrated heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. These results support the feasibility of discovery-based approaches using next-generation sequencing technologies to identify signaling pathways for targeting in the development of personalized therapies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

Single-cell transcriptomic analysis of human lung provides insights into the pathobiology of pulmonary fibrosis (macrophages)

Rationale: The contributions of diverse cell populations in the human lung to pulmonary fibrosis pathogenesis are poorly understood. Single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal changes within individual cell populations during pulmonary fibrosis that are important for disease pathogenesis. Objectives: To determine whether single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal disease-related heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages, epithelial cells, or other cell types in lung tissue from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis compared with control subjects. Methods: We performed single-cell RNA sequencing on lung tissue obtained from eight transplant donors and eight recipients with pulmonary fibrosis and on one bronchoscopic cryobiospy sample from a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We validated these data using in situ RNA hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and bulk RNA-sequencing on flow-sorted cells from 22 additional subjects. Measurements and Main Results: We identified a distinct, novel population of profibrotic alveolar macrophages exclusively in patients with fibrosis. Within epithelial cells, the expression of genes involved in Wnt secretion and response was restricted to nonoverlapping cells. We identified rare cell populations including airway stem cells and senescent cells emerging during pulmonary fibrosis. We developed a web-based tool to explore these data. Conclusions: We generated a single-cell atlas of pulmonary fibrosis. Using this atlas, we demonstrated heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. These results support the feasibility of discovery-based approaches using next-generation sequencing technologies to identify signaling pathways for targeting in the development of personalized therapies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

A cancer cell program promotes T cell exclusion and resistance to checkpoint blockade (CDK4/6 inhibition)

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) produce durable responses in some melanoma patients, but many patients derive no clinical benefit, and the molecular underpinnings of such resistance remain elusive. Here, we leveraged single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) from 33 melanoma tumors and computational analyses to interrogate malignant cell states that promote immune evasion. We identified a resistance program expressed by malignant cells that is associated with T cell exclusion and immune evasion. The program is expressed prior to immunotherapy, characterizes cold niches in situ, and predicts clinical responses to anti-PD-1 therapy in an independent cohort of 112 melanoma patients. CDK4/6-inhibition represses this program in individual malignant cells, induces senescence, and reduces melanoma tumor outgrowth in mouse models in vivo when given in combination with immunotherapy. Our study provides a high-resolution landscape of ICI-resistant cell states, identifies clinically predictive signatures, and suggests new therapeutic strategies to overcome immunotherapy resistance.

Single-Cell Transcriptomic Analysis of Human Lung Provides Insights into the Pathobiology of Pulmonary Fibrosis (all)

Rationale: The contributions of diverse cell populations in the human lung to pulmonary fibrosis pathogenesis are poorly understood. Single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal changes within individual cell populations during pulmonary fibrosis that are important for disease pathogenesis. Objectives: To determine whether single-cell RNA sequencing can reveal disease-related heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages, epithelial cells, or other cell types in lung tissue from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis compared with control subjects. Methods: We performed single-cell RNA sequencing on lung tissue obtained from eight transplant donors and eight recipients with pulmonary fibrosis and on one bronchoscopic cryobiospy sample from a patient with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We validated these data using in situ RNA hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and bulk RNA-sequencing on flow-sorted cells from 22 additional subjects. Measurements and Main Results: We identified a distinct, novel population of profibrotic alveolar macrophages exclusively in patients with fibrosis. Within epithelial cells, the expression of genes involved in Wnt secretion and response was restricted to nonoverlapping cells. We identified rare cell populations including airway stem cells and senescent cells emerging during pulmonary fibrosis. We developed a web-based tool to explore these data. Conclusions: We generated a single-cell atlas of pulmonary fibrosis. Using this atlas, we demonstrated heterogeneity within alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. These results support the feasibility of discovery-based approaches using next-generation sequencing technologies to identify signaling pathways for targeting in the development of personalized therapies for patients with pulmonary fibrosis.

Single-cell RNA sequencing of lymph node stromal cells reveals niche-associated heterogeneity

Stromal cells (SCs) establish the compartmentalization of lymphoid tissues critical to the immune response. However, the full diversity of lymph node (LN) SCs remains undefined. Using droplet-based single-cell RNA sequencing, we identified nine peripheral LN non-endothelial SC clusters. Included are the established subsets, Ccl19hi T-zone reticular cells (TRCs), marginal reticular cells, follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), and perivascular cells. We also identified Ccl19lo TRCs, likely including cholesterol-25-hydroxylase+ cells located at the T-zone perimeter, Cxcl9+ TRCs in the T-zone and interfollicular region, CD34+ SCs in the capsule and medullary vessel adventitia, indolethylamine N-methyltransferase+ SCs in the medullary cords, and Nr4a1+ SCs in several niches. These data help define how transcriptionally distinct LN SCs support niche-restricted immune functions and provide evidence that many SCs are in an activated state.

Highly parallel genome-wide expression profiling of individual cells using nanoliter droplets

Cells, the basic units of biological structure and function, vary broadly in type and state. Single-cell genomics can characterize cell identity and function, but limitations of ease and scale have prevented its broad application. Here we describe Drop-seq, a strategy for quickly profiling thousands of individual cells by separating them into nanoliter-sized aqueous droplets, associating a different barcode with each cell’s RNAs, and sequencing them all together. Drop-seq analyzes mRNA transcripts from thousands of individual cells simultaneously while remembering transcripts’ cell of origin. We analyzed transcriptomes from 44,808 mouse retinal cells and identified 39 transcriptionally distinct cell populations, creating a molecular atlas of gene expression for known retinal cell classes and novel candidate cell subtypes. Drop-seq will accelerate biological discovery by enabling routine transcriptional profiling at single-cell resolution.