Haojia Wu, Kohei Uchimura, Erinn L. Donnelly, Yuhei Kirita, Samantha A. Morris, Benjamin D. Humphreys
Kidney organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells have great utility for investigating organogenesis and disease mechanisms and, potentially, as a replacement tissue source, but how closely organoids derived from current protocols replicate adult human kidney is undefined. We compared two directed differentiation protocols by single-cell transcriptomics of 83,130 cells from 65 organoids with single-cell transcriptomes of fetal and adult kidney cells. Both protocols generate a diverse range of kidney cells with differing ratios, but organoid-derived cell types are immature, and 10%-20% of cells are non-renal. Reconstructing lineage relationships by pseudotemporal ordering identified ligands, receptors, and transcription factor networks associated with fate decisions. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its cognate receptor NTRK2 were expressed in the neuronal lineage during organoid differentiation. Inhibiting this pathway improved organoid formation by reducing neurons by 90% without affecting kidney differentiation, highlighting the power of single-cell technologies to characterize and improve organoid differentiation.