Ramachandran P, Dobie R, Wilson-Kanamori JR, Dora EF, Henderson BEP, Luu NT, Portman JR, Matchett KP, Brice M, Marwick JA, Taylor RS, Efremova M, Vento-Tormo R, Carragher NO, Kendall TJ, Fallowfield JA, Harrison EM, Mole DJ, Wigmore SJ, Newsome PN, Weston CJ, Iredale JP, Tacke F, Pollard JW, Ponting CP, Marioni JC, Teichmann SA, Henderson NC
Liver cirrhosis is a major cause of death worldwide and is characterized by extensive fibrosis. There are currently no effective antifibrotic therapies available. To obtain a better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in disease pathogenesis and enable the discovery of therapeutic targets, here we profile the transcriptomes of more than 100,000 single human cells, yielding molecular definitions for non-parenchymal cell types that are found in healthy and cirrhotic human liver. We identify a scar-associated TREM2+CD9+ subpopulation of macrophages, which expands in liver fibrosis, differentiates from circulating monocytes and is pro-fibrogenic. We also define ACKR1+ and PLVAP+ endothelial cells that expand in cirrhosis, are topographically restricted to the fibrotic niche and enhance the transmigration of leucocytes. Multi-lineage modelling of ligand and receptor interactions between the scar-associated macrophages, endothelial cells and PDGFR<ce><b1>+ 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 a conceptual framework for the discovery of rational therapeutic targets in liver cirrhosis.