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Dissecting the Single-Cell Transcriptome Network Underlying Gastric Premalignant Lesions and Early Gastric Cancer

Intestinal-type gastric cancer is preceded by premalignant lesions, including chronic atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia. In this study, we constructed a single-cell atlas for 32,332 high-quality cells from gastric antral mucosa biopsies of patients spanning a cascade of gastric premalignant lesions and early gastric cancer (EGC) using single-cell RNA sequencing. We then constructed a single-cell network underlying cellular and molecular characteristics of gastric epithelial cells across different lesions. We found that gland mucous cells tended to acquire an intestinal-like stem cell phenotype during metaplasia, and we identified OR51E1 as a marker for unique endocrine cells in the early-malignant lesion. We also found that HES6 might mark the pre-goblet cell cluster, potentially aiding identification of metaplasia at the early stage. Finally, we identified a panel of EGC-specific signatures, with clinical implications for the precise diagnosis of EGC. Our study offers unparalleled insights into the human gastric cellulome in premalignant and early-malignant lesions.