Malaria causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide, disproportionately impacting parts of Africa. Disease phenotypes associated with malarial infection can vary widely, from subclinical to life-threatening. To date, prevention efforts, particularly those related to vaccine development, have been hindered by an incomplete understanding of which factors impact host immune responses resulting in these divergent outcomes. We applied single-cell RNA- sequencing to compare the immunological phenotypes of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from children with clinical and subclinical malarial infections in an area of high malaria transmission in northern Ghana. On average, clinical pediatric malaria infections were characterized by a higher fractional abundance of monocytes and an upregulation of innate immune responses, including those to type I and type II interferons and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) signaling via NFκB. Further, in the clinical malaria group, we identified more putative interactions between antigen-presenting cells and proliferating CD4 T cells and naïve CD8 T cells driven by MHC-I and MHC-II signaling pathways, respectively. Together, these findings highlight transcriptional differences between immune cell subsets associated with disease phenotypes that may help guide the development of improved malaria vaccines and new therapeutic interventions for individuals residing in endemic areas.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is restricted to the liver where it drives exhaustion of virus-specific T and B cells and pathogenesis through dysregulation of intrahepatic immunity. Our understanding of liver-specific events related to viral control and liver damage have relied almost solely on animal models and we lack useable peripheral biomarkers to quantify intrahepatic immune activation beyond cytokine measurement. Our objective was to overcome practical obstacles of liver sampling using fine-needle aspiration (FNA) and develop an optimized workflow to comprehensively compare the blood and liver compartments within chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq). We developed a workflow that enabled multi-site international studies and centralized scRNAseq. Blood and liver FNAs were collected, and cellular and molecular capture were compared between the Seq-Well S3 picowell-based and the 10x Chromium reverse-emulsion droplet-based scRNAseq technologies. Both technologies captured the cellular diversity of the liver but Seq-Well S3 effectively captured neutrophils, which were absent in the 10x dataset. CD8 T cells and neutrophils displayed distinct transcriptional profiles between blood and liver. In addition, liver FNAs captured a heterogeneous liver macrophage population. Comparison between untreated CHB patients and patients treated with nucleoside analogues showed that myeloid cells were highly sensitive to environmental changes while lymphocytes displayed minimal differences. The ability to electively sample and intensively profile the immune landscape of the liver, and generate high-resolution data, will enable multi-site clinical studies to identify biomarkers for intrahepatic immune activity in HBV and beyond.
Inference of cell–cell communication from single-cell RNA sequencing data is a powerful technique to uncover intercellular communication pathways, yet existing methods perform this analysis at the level of the cell type or cluster, discarding single-cell-level information. Here we present Scriabin, a flexible and scalable framework for comparative analysis of cell–cell communication at single-cell resolution that is performed without cell aggregation or downsampling. We use multiple published atlas-scale datasets, genetic perturbation screens and direct experimental validation to show that Scriabin accurately recovers expected cell–cell communication edges and identifies communication networks that can be obscured by agglomerative methods. Additionally, we use spatial transcriptomic data to show that Scriabin can uncover spatial features of interaction from dissociated data alone. Finally, we demonstrate applications to longitudinal datasets to follow communication pathways operating between timepoints. Our approach represents a broadly applicable strategy to reveal the full structure of niche–phenotype relationships in health and disease.
Imidazoquinolines (IMDs), such as resiquimod (R848), are of great interest as potential cancer immunotherapies because of their ability to activate Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) and/or TLR8 on innate immune cells. Nevertheless, intravenous administration of IMDs causes severe immune-related toxicities, and attempts to improve their tissue-selective exposure while minimizing acute systemic inflammation have proven difficult. Here, using a library of R848 “bottlebrush prodrugs” (BPDs) that differ only by their R848 release kinetics, we explore how the timing of R848 exposure affects immune stimulation in vitro and in vivo. These studies led to the discovery of R848-BPDs that exhibit optimal activation kinetics to achieve potent stimulation of myeloid cells in tumors and substantial reductions in tumor growth following systemic administration in mouse syngeneic tumor models without any observable systemic toxicity. These results suggest that release kinetics can be tuned at the molecular level to provide safe yet effective systemically administered immunostimulant prodrugs for next-generation cancer immunotherapies.
Loss of the PTEN tumour suppressor is one of the most common oncogenic drivers across all cancer types. PTEN is the major negative regulator of PI3K signalling. The PI3Kβ isoform has been shown to play an important role in PTEN-deficient tumours, but the mechanisms underlying the importance of PI3Kβ activity remain elusive. Here, using a syngeneic genetically engineered mouse model of invasive breast cancer driven by ablation of both Ptenand Trp53 (which encodes p53), we show that genetic inactivation of PI3Kβ led to a robust anti-tumour immune response that abrogated tumour growth in syngeneic immunocompetent mice, but not in immunodeficient mice. Mechanistically, PI3Kβ inactivation in the PTEN-null setting led to reduced STAT3 signalling and increased the expression of immune stimulatory molecules, thereby promoting anti-tumour immune responses. Pharmacological PI3Kβ inhibition also elicited anti-tumour immunity and synergized with immunotherapy to inhibit tumour growth. Mice with complete responses to the combined treatment displayed immune memory and rejected tumours upon re-challenge. Our findings demonstrate a molecular mechanism linking PTEN loss and STAT3 activation in cancer and suggest that PI3Kβ controls immune escape in PTEN-null tumours, providing a rationale for combining PI3Kβ inhibitors with immunotherapy for the treatment of PTEN-deficient breast cancer.
HIV causes chronic inflammation and AIDS in humans, though the rate of disease progression varies between individuals. Similarly, simian lentiviruses vary in their pathogenicity based on characteristics of both the host (simian species) and virus strain. Here, we profile immune responses in pig-tailed macaques infected with variants of SIV that differ in virulence to understand the immune mechanisms underlying lentiviral pathogenicity. Compared to a minimally pathogenic lentiviral variant, infection with a highly pathogenic variant results in a more delayed, broad, and sustained activation of inflammatory pathways, including an extensive global interferon signature. Conversely, individual cells infected with highly pathogenic lentivirus upregulated fewer interferon-stimulated genes at a lower magnitude, indicating that highly pathogenic lentivirus has evolved to partially escape from interferon responses. Further, we identified distinct gene co-expression patterns and cell-cell communication pathways that implicate CXCL10 and CXCL16 as important molecular drivers of inflammatory pathways specifically in response to highly pathogenic lentivirus infection. Immune responses to highly pathogenic lentivirus infection are characterized by amplifying regulatory circuits of pro-inflammatory cytokines with dense longitudinal connectivity. Our work presents a model of lentiviral pathogenicity where failures in early viral control mechanisms lead to delayed, sustained, and amplifying pro-inflammatory circuits, which has implications for other viral infections with highly variable disease courses.
Chronic liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are life-threatening diseases with limited treatment options. The lack of clinically relevant/tractable experimental models hampers therapeutic discovery. Here, we develop a simple and robust human liver cell-based system modeling a clinical prognostic liver signature (PLS) predicting long-term liver disease progression toward HCC. Using the PLS as a readout, followed by validation in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis/fibrosis/HCC animal models and patient-derived liver spheroids, we identify nizatidine, a histamine receptor H2 (HRH2) blocker, for treatment of advanced liver disease and HCC chemoprevention. Moreover, perturbation studies combined with single cell RNA-Seq analyses of patient liver tissues uncover hepatocytes and HRH2+, CLEC5Ahigh, MARCOlowliver macrophages as potential nizatidine targets. The PLS model combined with single cell RNA-Seq of patient tissues enables discovery of urgently needed targets and therapeutics for treatment of advanced liver disease and cancer prevention.
Eosinophilic asthma and nasal polyposis are hallmarks of aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD), and IL-5 inhibition has been shown to provide therapeutic benefit. However, IL-5Ra is expressed on many cells in addition to eosinophils, and the mechanisms by which IL-5 inhibition leads to clinical benefit in eosinophilic asthma and nasal polyposis are unlikely to be due exclusively to antieosinophil effects. We sought to identify the mechanisms by which anti– IL-5 treatment with mepolizumab improves respiratory inflammation in AERD. The clinical characteristics, circulating granulocytes, nasal scraping transcripts, eosinophilic cationic protein, tryptase, and antibody levels, and urinary and nasal eicosanoid levels were measured for 18 subjects with AERD who were taking mepolizumab and compared with those of 18 matched subjects with AERD who were not taking mepolizumab. Subjects taking mepolizumab had significantly fewer peripheral blood eosinophils and basophils, and those cells that remained had higher surface CRTH2 expression than did the cells from subjects not taking mepolizumab. Nasal prostaglandin F2a, prostaglandin D2 metabolites, leukotriene B4, and thromboxane levels were lower in subjects taking mepolizumab, as were urinary levels of tetranor–prostaglandin D2 and leukotriene E4. The nasal epithelial cell transcripts that were overexpressed among subjects with AERD who were taking mepolizumab were enriched for genes involved in tight junction formation and cilium organization. Nasal and urinary prostaglandin E2, tryptase, and antibody levels were not different between the 2 groups. IL-5 inhibition in AERD decreases production of inflammatory eicosanoids and upregulates tight junction– associated nasal epithelial cell transcripts, likely due to decreased IL-5 signaling on tissue mast cells, eosinophils, and epithelial cells. These direct effects on multiple relevant immune cells contribute to the mechanism of benefit afforded by mepolizumab.
Ovulation is an integral part of women’s menstrual cycle and fertility. Understanding the mechanisms of ovulation has broad implications for the treatment of anovulatory diseases and the development of novel contraceptives. Now, few studies have developed effective models that both faithfully recapitulate the hallmarks of ovulation and possess scalability. We established a three-dimensional encapsulated in vitro follicle growth (eIVFG) system that recapitulates folliculogenesis and produces follicles that undergo ovulation in a controlled manner. Here, we determined whether ex vivo ovulation preserves molecular signatures of ovulation and demonstrated its use in discovering novel ovulatory pathways and nonhormonal contraceptive candidates through a high-throughput ovulation screening. Mature murine follicles from eIVFG were induced to ovulate ex vivo using human chorionic gonadotropin and collected at 0, 1, 4, and 8 hours post-induction. Phenotypic analyses confirmed key ovulatory events, including cumulus expansion, oocyte maturation, follicle rupture, and luteinization. Single-follicle RNA-sequencing analysis revealed the preservation of ovulatory genes and dynamic transcriptomic profiles and signaling. Soft clustering identified distinct gene expression patterns and new pathways that may critically regulate ovulation. We further used this ex vivoovulation system to screen 21 compounds targeting established and newly identified ovulatory pathways. We discovered that proprotein convertases activate gelatinases to sustain follicle rupture and do not regulate luteinization and progesterone secretion. Together, our ex vivo ovulation system preserves molecular signatures of ovulation, presenting a new powerful tool for studying ovulation and anovulatory diseases as well as for establishing a high-throughput ovulation screening to identify novel nonhormonal contraceptives for women.
Vitrification is a method for long-term biological sample cryopreservation that transforms cells into a glass-like state by cooling without causing intra- and extra-cellular ice formation, which is a major driver of cell cryoinjury. Compared to slow freezing, another conventional cryopreservation method, vitrification is simple, cost- effective and does not require a complex programmable freezer. Vitrification has been increasingly used to cryopreserve gametes and embryos for fertility preservation in assisted reproductive technology (ART). Moreover, vitrification of individual follicles followed by in vitro maturation (IVM) has emerged as a new fertility preservation method, particularly for childhood cancer patients who have no mature oocytes available for harvesting and for patients who cannot undergo ovarian tissue transplantation after cryopreservation because of the risk of reintroducing malignant cells. However, vitrification of individual follicles has been challenging because intact follicles have a more complex structure and larger size than individual oocytes or early embryos. Traditional oocyte/embryo vitrification methods are not optimized for individual follicles, and have been shown to compromise the qualities of follicles or oocytes, partly by damaging the gap junction between follicular cells or the transzonal projections (TZP) between the oocyte and cumulus cells. In our previous studies, we developed a closed vitrification method for cryopreserving ovarian tissues that was modified for individual follicles. Furthermore, using an alginate hydrogel encapsulated in vitro follicle growth (eIVFG) system, we have recently demonstrated that compared to freshly-harvested follicles, vitrified follicles have normal follicle and oocyte reproductive outcomes as well as comparable expression levels of several genes that are essential for gonadotropin-dependent folliculogenesis and oogenesis. However, it is unknown whether vitrification preserves the molecular signatures of folliculogenesis at the whole transcriptomic level, which is the primary research focus in this study.
Patients with chronic lung disease (CLD) have an increased risk for severe coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and poor outcomes. Here, we analyze the transcriptomes of 611,398 single cells isolated from healthy and CLD lungs to identify molecular characteristics of lung cells that may account for worse COVID-19 outcomes in patients with chronic lung diseases. We observe a similar cellular distribution and relative expression of SARS-CoV-2 entry factors in control and CLD lungs. CLD AT2 cells express higher levels of genes linked directly to the efficiency of viral replication and the innate immune response. Additionally, we identify basal differences in inflammatory gene expression programs that highlight how CLD alters the inflammatory microenvironment encountered upon viral exposure to the peripheral lung. Our study indicates that CLD is accompanied by changes in cell-type-specific gene expression programs that prime the lung epithelium for and influence the innate and adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Temporal resolution of cellular features associated with a severe COVID-19 disease trajectory is needed for understanding skewed immune responses and defining predictors of outcome. Here, we performed a longitudinal multi-omics study using a two-center cohort of 14 patients. We analyzed the bulk transcriptome, bulk DNA methylome, and single-cell transcriptome (>358,000 cells, including BCR profiles) of peripheral blood samples harvested from up to 5 time points. Validation was performed in two independent cohorts of COVID-19 patients. Severe COVID-19 was characterized by an increase of proliferating, metabolically hyperactive plasmablasts. Coinciding with critical illness, we also identified an expansion of interferon-activated circulating megakaryocytes and increased erythropoiesis with features of hypoxic signaling. Megakaryocyte- and erythroid-cell-derived co-expression modules were predictive of fatal disease outcome. The study demonstrates broad cellular effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection beyond adaptive immune cells and provides an entry point toward developing biomarkers and targeted treatments of patients with COVID-19.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV-2 infection occurs predominantly by binding of the viral surface spike protein to the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. Hypertension and preexisting cardiovascular disease are risk factors for morbidity from COVID-19, and it remains uncertain whether the use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEis) or angiotensin receptor blockers affects infection and disease. This uncertainty has provoked public statements by the American Heart Association, the Heart Failure Society of America, and the American College of Cardiology advising continuation of these agents in the absence of compelling new data.
High-throughput phenotypic screens leveraging biochemical perturbations, high-content readouts, and complex multicellular models could advance therapeutic discovery yet remain constrained by limitations of scale. To address this, we establish a method for compressing screens by pooling perturbations followed by computational deconvolution. Conducting controlled benchmarks with a highly bioactive small molecule library and a high-content imaging readout, we demonstrate increased efficiency for compressed experimental designs compared to conventional approaches. To prove generalizability, we apply compressed screening to examine transcriptional responses of patient-derived pancreatic cancer organoids to a library of tumor-microenvironment (TME)-nominated recombinant protein ligands. Using single-cell RNA-seq as a readout, we uncover reproducible phenotypic shifts induced by ligands that correlate with clinical features in larger datasets and are distinct from reference signatures available in public databases. In sum, our approach enables phenotypic screens that interrogate complex multicellular models with rich phenotypic readouts to advance translatable drug discovery as well as basic biology.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has been classified into classical and basal-like transcriptional subtypes by bulk RNA measurements. However, recent work has uncovered greater complexity to transcriptional subtypes than was initially appreciated using bulk RNA expression profiling. To provide a deeper understanding of PDAC subtypes, we developed a multiplex immunofluorescence (mIF) pipeline that quantifies protein expression of six PDAC subtype markers (CLDN18.2, TFF1, GATA6, KRT17, KRT5, and S100A2) and permits spatially resolved, single-cell interrogation of pancreatic tumors from resection specimens and core needle biopsies. Both primary and metastatic tumors displayed striking intratumoral subtype heterogeneity that was associated with patient outcomes, existed at the scale of individual glands, and was significantly reduced in patient-derived organoid cultures. Tumor cells co-expressing classical and basal markers were present in > 90% of tumors, existed on a basal-classical polarization continuum, and were enriched in tumors containing a greater admixture of basal and classical cell populations. Cell-cell neighbor analyses within tumor glands further suggested that co-expressor cells may represent an intermediate state between expression subtype poles. The extensive intratumoral heterogeneity identified through this clinically applicable mIF pipeline may inform prognosis and treatment selection for patients with PDAC.
T cells have a central role in adaptive immune responses. However, no accurate assays currently exist that link measurements of ex vivo or in vitro function to effective in vivo T cell responses. Diagnostic detection of T cell function in infectious and immune-mediated diseases also lags in vitro assessments of antibody function. An improved understanding of T cell responses will help researchers and clinicians better predict immune outcomes in response to vaccines, pathogenic infections or immune-mediated diseases. To address these issues, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) convened the ‘T Cell Technologies: Assays, Innovations, Challenges, and Opportunities Workshop’ on 15–16 June 2022. The goals of the workshop were to explore assays and technologic advances that could improve understanding of T cell activation and function in different immune conditions, tissues and infections, and to identify methodologies that best provide an accurate measure of T cell biological relevance.
Cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis) is an attractive animal model for the study of human disease and is extensively used in biomedical research. Cynomolgus macaques share behavioral, physiological, and genomic traits with humans and recapitulate human disease manifestations not observed in other animal species. To improve the use of the cynomolgus macaque model to investigate immune responses, we defined and characterized the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire. We identified and analyzed the alpha (TRA), beta (TRB), gamma (TRG), and delta (TRD) TCR loci of the cynomolgus macaque. The expressed repertoire was determined using 22 unique lung samples from Mycobacterium tuberculosis infected cynomolgus macaques by single cell RNA sequencing. Expressed TCR alpha (TRAV) and beta (TRBV) variable region genes were enriched and identified using gene specific primers, which allowed their functional status to be determined. Analysis of the primers used for cynomolgus macaque TCR variable region gene enrichment showed they could also be used to amplify rhesus macaque (M. mulatta) variable region genes. The genomic organization of the cynomolgus macaque has great similarity with the rhesus macaque and they shared > 90% sequence similarity with the human TCR repertoire. The identification of the TCR repertoire facilitates analysis of T cell immunity in cynomolgus macaques.
Lymphoid tissues are an important HIV reservoir site that persists in the face of antiretroviral therapy and natural immunity. Targeting these reservoirs by harnessing the antiviral activity of local tissue-resident memory (TRM) CD8+ T-cells is of great interest, but limited data exist on TRM-like cells within lymph nodes of people living with HIV (PLWH). Here, we studied tonsil CD8+ T-cells obtained from PLWH and uninfected controls from South Africa. We show that these cells are preferentially located outside the germinal centers (GCs), the main reservoir site for HIV, and display a low cytolytic and a transcriptionally TRM-like profile distinct from blood CD8+ T-cells. In PLWH, CD8+ TRM-like cells are expanded and adopt a more cytolytic, activated, and exhausted phenotype not reversed by antiretroviral therapy (ART). This phenotype was enhanced in HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells from tonsils compared to matched blood suggesting a higher antigen burden in tonsils. Single-cell transcriptional and clonotype resolution showed that these HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells in the tonsils express heterogeneous signatures of T-cell activation, clonal expansion, and exhaustion ex-vivo. Interestingly, this signature was absent in a natural HIV controller, who expressed lower PD-1 and CXCR5 levels and reduced transcriptional evidence of T-cell activation, exhaustion, and cytolytic activity. These data provide important insights into lymphoid tissue-derived HIV-specific CD8+ TRM-like phenotypes in settings of HIV remission and highlight their potential for immunotherapy and targeting of the HIV reservoirs.
Primordial follicles are the first class of follicles formed in the mammalian ovary and are comprised of an oocyte surrounded by a layer of squamous pre-granulosa cells. This developmental class remains in a non-growing state until individual follicles activate to initiate folliculogenesis. What regulates the timing of follicle activation and the upstream signals that govern these processes are major unanswered questions in ovarian biology. This is partly due to the paucity of data on staged follicle cells since isolating and manipulating individual oocytes and somatic cells from early follicle stages are challenging. To date, most studies on isolated primordial follicles have been conducted on cells collected from animal-age- or oocyte size-specific samples, which encompass multiple follicular stages. Here, we report a method for collecting primordial follicles and their associated oocytes and somatic cells from neonatal murine ovaries using liberase, DNase I, and Accutase. This methodology allows for the identification and collection of follicles immediately post-activation enabling unprecedented interrogation of the primordial-to-primary follicle transition. Molecular profiling by single-cell RNA sequencing revealed that processes including organelle disassembly and cadherin binding were enriched in oocytes and somatic cells as they transitioned from primordial to the primary follicle stage. Furthermore, targets including WNT4, TGFB1, FOXO3, and a network of transcription factors were identified in the transitioning oocytes and somatic cells as potential upstream regulators that collectively may drive follicle activation. Taken together, we have developed a more precise characterization and selection method for studying staged-follicle cells, revealing several novel regulators of early folliculogenesis.
High-risk forms of B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) remain a therapeutic challenge. Leukemia-initiating cells (LICs) self-renew and spark relapse and therefore have been the subject of intensive investigation; however, the properties of LICs in high-risk B-ALL are not well understood. Here, we use single-cell transcriptomics and quantitative xenotransplantation to understand LICs in MLL-rearranged (MLL-r) B-ALL. Compared with reported LIC frequencies in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), engraftable LICs in MLL-r B-ALL are abundant. Although we find that multipotent, self-renewing LICs are enriched among phenotypically undifferentiated B-ALL cells, LICs with the capacity to replenish the leukemic cellular diversity can emerge from more mature fractions. While inhibiting oxidative phosphorylation blunts blast proliferation, this intervention promotes LIC emergence. Conversely, inhibiting hypoxia and glycolysis impairs MLL-r B-ALL LICs, providing a therapeutic benefit in xenotransplantation systems. These findings provide insight into the aggressive nature of MLL-r B-ALL and provide a rationale for therapeutic targeting of hypoxia and glycolysis.
The immune system represents a major barrier to cancer progression, driving the evolution of immunoregulatory interactions between malignant cells and T-cells in the tumor environment. Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN), a rare acute leukemia with plasmacytoid dendritic cell (pDC) differentiation, provides a unique opportunity to study these interactions. pDCs are key producers of interferon alpha (IFNA) that play an important role in T-cell activation at the interface between the innate and adaptive immune system. To assess how uncontrolled proliferation of malignant BPDCN cells affects the tumor environment, we catalog immune cell heterogeneity in the bone marrow (BM) of five healthy controls and five BPDCN patients by analyzing 52,803 single-cell transcriptomes, including 18,779 T-cells. We test computational techniques for robust cell type classification and find that T-cells in BPDCN patients consistently upregulate interferon alpha (IFNA) response and downregulate tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFA) pathways. Integrating transcriptional data with T-cell receptor sequencing via shared barcodes reveals significant T-cell exhaustion in BPDCN that is positively correlated with T-cell clonotype expansion. By highlighting new mechanisms of T-cell exhaustion and immune evasion in BPDCN, our results demonstrate the value of single-cell multiomics to understand immune cell interactions in the tumor environment.
T cell receptor (TCR) clonotype tracking is a powerful tool for interrogating T cell mediated immune processes. New methods to pair a single cell’s transcriptional program with its TCR identity allow monitoring of T cell clonotype-specific transcriptional dynamics. While these technologies have been available for human and mouse T cells studies, they have not been developed for Rhesus Macaques (RM), a critical translational organism for autoimmune diseases, vaccine development and transplantation. We describe a new pipeline, ‘RM-scTCR-Seq’, which, for the first time, enables RM specific single cell TCR amplification, reconstruction and pairing of RM TCR’s with their transcriptional profiles. We apply this method to a RM model of GVHD, and identify and track in vitro detected alloreactive clonotypes in GVHD target organs and explore their GVHD driven cytotoxic T cell signature. This novel, state-of-the-art platform fundamentally advances the utility of RM to study protective and pathogenic T cell responses.
Oncogenes act in a cell-intrinsic way to promote tumorigenesis. Whether oncogenes also have a cell-extrinsic effect on suppressing the immune response to cancer is less well understood. We use an in vivo expression screen of known cancer-associated somatic mutations in mouse syngeneic tumor models treated with checkpoint blockade to identify oncogenes that promote immune evasion. We then validated candidates from this screen in vivo and analyzed the tumor immune microenvironment of tumors expressing mutant protein to identify mechanisms of immune evasion. We found that expression of a catalytically active mutation in phospho-inositol 3 kinase (PI3K), PIK3CA c.3140A>G (H1047R) confers a selective growth advantage to tumors treated with immunotherapy that is reversed by pharmacological PI3K inhibition. PIK3CA H1047R-expression in tumors decreased the number of CD8+ T cells but increased the number of inhibitory myeloid cells following immunotherapy. Inhibition of myeloid infiltration by pharmacological or genetic modulation of Ccl2 in PIK3CA H1047R tumors restored sensitivity to programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) checkpoint blockade. PI3K activation enables tumor immune evasion by promoting an inhibitory myeloid microenvironment. Activating mutations in PI3K may be useful as a biomarker of poor response to immunotherapy. Our data suggest that some oncogenes promote tumorigenesis by enabling tumor cells to avoid clearance by the immune system. Identification of those mechanisms can advance rational combination strategies to increase the efficacy of immunotherapy.
Environmental enteropathy (EE) is a subclinical condition of the small intestine that is highly prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. It is thought to be a key contributing factor to childhood malnutrition, growth stunting, and diminished oral vaccine responses. Although EE has been shown to be the by-product of a recurrent enteric infection, its full pathophysiology remains unclear. Here, we mapped the cellular and molecular correlates of EE by performing high-throughput, single-cell RNA-sequencing on 33 small intestinal biopsies from 11 adults with EE in Lusaka, Zambia (eight HIV-negative and three HIV-positive), six adults without EE in Boston, United States, and two adults in Durban, South Africa, which we complemented with published data from three additional individuals from the same clinical site. We analyzed previously defined bulk-transcriptomic signatures of reduced villus height and decreased microbial translocation in EE and showed that these signatures may be driven by an increased abundance of surface mucosal cells—a gastric-like subset previously implicated in epithelial repair in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, we determined cell subsets whose fractional abundances associate with EE severity, small intestinal region, and HIV infection. Furthermore, by comparing duodenal EE samples with those from three control cohorts, we identified dysregulated WNT and MAPK signaling in the EE epithelium and increased proinflammatory cytokine gene expression in a T cell subset highly expressing a transcriptional signature of tissue-resident memory cells in the EE cohort. Together, our work elucidates epithelial and immune correlates of EE and nominates cellular and molecular targets for intervention.
Immunosurveillance of cancer requires the presentation of peptide antigens on major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) molecules1–5. Current approaches to profiling of MHC-I-associated peptides, collectively known as the immunopeptidome, are limited to in vitro investigation or bulk tumour lysates, which limits our understanding of cancer-specific patterns of antigen presentation in vivo6. To overcome these limitations, we engineered an inducible affinity tag into the mouse MHC-I gene (H2-K1) and targeted this allele to the KrasLSL-G12D/+Trp53fl/fl mouse model (KP/KbStrep)7. This approach enabled us to precisely isolate MHC-I peptides from autochthonous pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and from lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) in vivo. In addition, we profiled the LUAD immunopeptidome from the alveolar type 2 cell of origin up to late-stage disease. Differential peptide presentation in LUAD was not predictable by mRNA expression or translation efficiency and is probably driven by post-translational mechanisms. Vaccination with peptides presented by LUAD in vivo induced CD8+ T cell responses in naive mice and tumour-bearing mice. Many peptides specific to LUAD, including immunogenic peptides, exhibited minimal expression of the cognate mRNA, which prompts the reconsideration of antigen prediction pipelines that triage peptides according to transcript abundance8. Beyond cancer, the KbStrep allele is compatible with other Cre-driver lines to explore antigen presentation in vivo in the pursuit of understanding basic immunology, infectious disease and autoimmunity.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis lung infection results in a complex multicellular structure: the granuloma. In some granulomas, immune activity promotes bacterial clearance, but in others, bacteria persist and grow. We identified correlates of bacterial control in cynomolgus macaque lung granulomas by co-registering longitudinal positron emission tomography and computed tomography imaging, single-cell RNA sequencing, and measures of bacterial clearance. Bacterial persistence occurred in granulomas enriched for mast, endothelial, fibroblast, and plasma cells, signaling amongst themselves via type 2 immunity and wound-healing pathways. Granulomas that drove bacterial control were characterized by cellular ecosystems enriched for type 1-type 17, stem-like, and cytotoxic T cells engaged in pro-inflammatory signaling networks involving diverse cell populations. Granulomas that arose later in infection displayed functional characteristics of restrictive granulomas and were more capable of killing Mtb. Our results define the complex multicellular eco- systems underlying (lack of) granuloma resolution and highlight host immune targets that can be leveraged to develop new vaccine and therapeutic strategies for TB.
Malaria-causing Plasmodium vivax parasites can linger in the human liver for weeks to years and reactivate to cause recurrent blood-stage infection. Although they are an important target for malaria eradication, little is known about the molecular features of replicative and non-replicative intracellular liver-stage parasites and their host cell dependence. Here, we leverage a bioengineered human microliver platform to culture patient-derived P. vivax parasites for transcriptional profiling. Coupling enrichment strategies with bulk and single-cell analyses, we capture both parasite and host transcripts in individual hepatocytes throughout the course of infection. We define host- and state-dependent transcriptional signatures and identify unappreciated populations of replicative and non-replicative parasites that share features with sexual transmissive forms. We find that infection suppresses the transcription of key hepatocyte function genes and elicits an anti-parasite innate immune response. Our work provides a foundation for understanding host-parasite interactions and reveals insights into the biology of P. vivax dormancy and transmission.
Human breast milk (hBM) is a dynamic fluid that contains millions of cells, but their identities and phenotypic properties are poorly understood. We generated and analyzed single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) data to characterize the transcriptomes of cells from hBM across lactational time from 3 to 632 d postpartum in 15 donors. We found that the majority of cells in hBM are lactocytes, a specialized epithelial subset, and that cell-type frequencies shift over the course of lactation, yielding greater epithelial diversity at later points. Analysis of lactocytes reveals a continuum of cell states characterized by transcriptional changes in hormone-, growth factor-, and milk production-related pathways. Generalized additive models suggest that one subcluster, LC1 epithelial cells, increases as a function of time postpartum, daycare attendance, and the use of hormonal birth control. We identify several subclusters of macrophages in hBM that are enriched for tolerogenic functions, possibly playing a role in protecting the mammary gland during lactation. Our description of the cellular components of breast milk, their association with maternal–infant dyad metadata, and our quantification of alterations at the gene and pathway levels provide a detailed longitudinal picture of hBM cells across lactational time. This work paves the way for future investigations of how a potential division of cellular labor and differential hormone regulation might be leveraged therapeutically to support healthy lactation and potentially aid in milk production.
The cellular composition of barrier epithelia is essential to organismal homoeostasis. In particular, within the small intestine, adult stem cells establish tissue cellularity, and may provide a means to control the abundance and quality of specialized epithelial cells. Yet, methods for the identification of biological targets regulating epithelial composition and function, and of small molecules modulating them, are lacking. Here we show that druggable biological targets and small-molecule regulators of intestinal stem cell differentiation can be identified via multiplexed phenotypic screening using thousands of miniaturized organoid models of intestinal stem cell differentiation into Paneth cells, and validated via longitudinal single-cell RNA-sequencing. We found that inhibitors of the nuclear exporter Exportin 1 modulate the fate of intestinal stem cells, independently of known differentiation cues, significantly increasing the abundance of Paneth cells in the organoids and in wild-type mice. Physiological organoid models of the differentiation of intestinal stem cells could find broader utility for the screening of biological targets and small molecules that can modulate the composition and function of other barrier epithelia.
Protocol for integrating CITE-seq with well-based scRNA-seq protocols.
Aplastic anemia is a potentially lethal autoimmune disease where the immune system erroneously targets and destroys bone marrow stem cells. Treatments such as immunosuppression or bone marrow transplantation are effective but have serious side effects. A patient presented to our hospital with aplastic anemia due to a mutation in STAT1, a gene involved in immune system function. Patients with other conditions caused by STAT1 mutations have been successfully treated with JAK inhibitors—a class of medications associated with fewer side effects. Our patient was treated with the JAK inhibitor itacitinib, which resulted in resolution of his aplastic anemia. Our data suggest that other patients with aplastic anemia also have STAT1 activation and may also benefit from JAK inhibitor treatment.
Prostate cancer is the second most common malignancy in men worldwide and consists of a mixture of tumor and non-tumor cell types. To characterize the prostate cancer tumor microenvironment, we perform single-cell RNA-sequencing on prostate biopsies, prostatectomy specimens, and patient-derived organoids from localized prostate cancer patients. We uncover heterogeneous cellular states in prostate epithelial cells marked by high androgen signaling states that are enriched in prostate cancer and identify a population of tumor-associated club cells that may be associated with prostate carcinogenesis. ERG-negative tumor cells, compared to ERG-positive cells, demonstrate shared heterogeneity with surrounding luminal epithelial cells and appear to give rise to common tumor microenvironment responses. Finally, we show that prostate epithelial organoids harbor tumor-associated epithelial cell states and are enriched with distinct cell types and states from their parent tissues. Our results provide diagnostically relevant insights and advance our understanding of the cellular states associated with prostate carcinogenesis.
Prognostically relevant RNA expression states exist in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), but our understanding of their drivers, stability, and relationship to therapeutic response is limited. To examine these attributes systematically, we profiled metastatic biopsies and matched organoid models at single-cell resolution. In vivo, we identify a new intermediate PDAC transcriptional cell state and uncover distinct site- and state-specific tumor microenvironments (TMEs). Benchmarking models against this reference map, we reveal strong culture-specific biases in cancer cell transcriptional state representation driven by altered TME signals. We restore expression state heterogeneity by adding back in vivo-relevant factors and show plasticity in culture models. Further, we prove that non-genetic modulation of cell state can strongly influence drug responses, uncovering state-specific vulnerabilities. This work provides a broadly applicable framework for aligning cell states across in vivo and ex vivo settings, identifying drivers of transcriptional plasticity and manipulating cell state to target associated vulnerabilities.
Blood samples are frequently collected in human studies of the immune system but poorly represent tissue-resident immunity. Understanding the immunopathogenesis of tissue-restricted diseases, such as chronic hepatitis B, necessitates direct investigation of local immune responses. We developed a workflow that enables frequent, minimally invasive collection of liver fine-needle aspirates in multi-site international studies and centralized single-cell RNA sequencing data generation using the Seq-Well S3 picowell-based technology. All immunological cell types were captured, including liver macrophages, and showed distinct compartmentalization and transcriptional profiles, providing a systematic assessment of the capabilities and limitations of peripheral blood samples when investigating tissue-restricted diseases. The ability to electively sample the liver of chronic viral hepatitis patients and generate high-resolution data will enable multi-site clinical studies to power fundamental and therapeutic discovery.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) bacilli readily aggregate. We previously reported that Mtb aggregates lead to phagocyte death and subsequent efficient replication in the dead infected cells. Here, we examined the transcriptional response of human monocyte derived macrophages to phagocytosis of aggregated Mtb relative to phagocytosis of non-aggregated single or multiple bacilli. Infection with aggregated Mtb led to an early upregulation of pro-inflammatory associated genes and enhanced TNFα signaling via the NFκB pathway. These pathways were significantly more upregulated relative to infection with single or multiple non-aggregated bacilli per cell. Phagocytosis of aggregates led to a decreased phagosome acidification on a per bacillus basis and increased phagocyte cell death, which was not observed when Mtb aggregates were heat killed prior to phagocytosis. Mtb aggregates, observed in a granuloma from a patient, were found surrounding a lesion cavity. These observations suggest that TB aggregation may be a mechanism for pathogenesis. They raise the possibility that aggregated Mtb, if spread from individual to individual, could facilitate increased inflammation, Mtb growth, and macrophage cell death, potentially leading to active disease, cell necrosis, and additional cycles of transmission.
Effective presentation of antigens by HLA class I molecules to CD8+ T cells is required for viral elimination and generation of long-term immunological memory. In this study, we applied a single-cell, multi-omic technology to generate a unified ex vivo characterization of the CD8+ T cell response to SARS-CoV-2 across 4 major HLA class I alleles. We found that HLA genotype conditions key features of epitope specificity, TCR α/β sequence diversity, and the utilization of pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 reactive memory T cell pools. Single-cell transcriptomics revealed functionally diverse T cell phenotypes of SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells, associated with both disease stage and epitope specificity. Our results show that HLA variations significantly influence the CD8+ T cell repertoire shape and utilization of immune recall upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Human breast milk is a dynamic fluid that contains millions of cells, but their identities and phenotypic properties are poorly understood. We used single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) to characterize the transcriptomes of cells from human breast milk (hBM) across lactational time from 3 to 632 days postpartum in 15 donors. We find that the majority of cells in human breast milk are lactocytes, a specialized epithelial subset, and cell type frequencies shift over the course of lactation yielding greater epithelial diversity at later points. Analysis of lactocytes reveals a continuum of cell states characterized by transcriptional changes in hormone, growth factor, and milk production related pathways. Generalized additive models suggest that one sub-cluster, LALBAlow epithelial cells, increase as a function of time postpartum, daycare attendance, and the use of hormonal birth control. We identify several sub-clusters of macrophages in hBM that are enriched for tolerogenic functions, possibly playing a role in protecting the mammary gland during lactation. Our description of the cellular components of breast milk, their association with maternal-infant dyad metadata and quantification of alterations at the gene and pathways levels provides the first detailed longitudinal picture of human breast milk cells across lactational time. This work paves the way for future investigations of how a potential division of cellular labor and differential hormone regulation might be leveraged therapeutically to support healthy lactation and potentially aid in milk production.
Many patients infected with coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 and NL63 that use ACE2 receptors to infect cells, exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms and viral proteins are found in the human gastrointestinal tract, yet little is known about the inflammatory and pathological effects of coronavirus infection on the human intestine. Here, we used a human intestine-on-a-chip (Intestine Chip) microfluidic culture device lined by patient organoid-derived intestinal epithelium interfaced with human vascular endothelium to study host cellular and inflammatory responses to infection with NL63 coronavirus. These organoid-derived intestinal epithelial cells dramatically increased their ACE2 protein levels when cultured under flow in the presence of peristalsis-like mechanical deformations in the Intestine Chips compared to when cultured statically as organoids or in Transwell inserts. Infection of the intestinal epithelium with NL63 on-chip led to inflammation of the endothelium as demonstrated by loss of barrier function, increased cytokine production, and recruitment of circulating peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Treatment of NL63 infected chips with the approved protease inhibitor drug, nafamostat, inhibited viral entry and resulted in a reduction in both viral load and cytokine secretion, whereas remdesivir, one of the few drugs approved for COVID19 patients, was not found to be effective and it also was toxic to the endothelium. This model of intestinal infection was also used to test the effects of other drugs that have been proposed for potential repurposing against SARS-CoV-2. Taken together, these data suggest that the human Intestine Chip might be useful as a human preclinical model for studying coronavirus related pathology as well as for testing of potential anti-viral or anti-inflammatory therapeutics.
Existing preclinical methods for acquiring dissemination kinetics of rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs) en route to forming metastases have not been capable of providing a direct measure of CTC intravasation rate and subsequent half-life in the circulation. Here, we demonstrate an approach for measuring endogenous CTC kinetics by continuously exchanging CTC-containing blood over several hours between un-anesthetized, tumor-bearing mice and healthy, tumor-free counterparts. By tracking CTC transfer rates, we extrapolated half-life times in the circulation of between 40 and 260 s and intravasation rates between 60 and 107,000 CTCs/hour in mouse models of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Additionally, direct transfer of only 1−2% of daily-shed CTCs using our blood-exchange technique from late-stage, SCLC-bearing mice generated macrometastases in healthy recipient mice. We envision that our technique will help further elucidate the role of CTCs and the rate-limiting steps in metastasis.
Single cell biology has the potential to elucidate many critical biological processes and diseases, from development and regeneration to cancer. Single cell analyses are uncovering the molecular diversity of cells, revealing a clearer picture of the variation among and between different cell types. New techniques are beginning to unravel how dif- ferences in cell state—transcriptional, epigenetic, and other characteristics—can lead to different cell fates among genetically identical cells, which underlies complex processes such as embryonic development, drug resistance, response to injury, and cellular reprogramming. Single cell technologies also pose significant challenges relating to processing and analyzing vast amounts of data collected. To realize the potential of single cell technologies, new computational approaches are needed. On March 17–19, 2021, experts in single cell biology met virtually for the Keystone eSymposium “Single Cell Biology” to discuss advances both in single cell applications and technologies.
Leptomeningeal disease (LMD) is a devastating complication of solid tumor malignancies, with dire prognosis and no effective systemic treatment options. Over the past decade, the incidence of LMD has steadily increased due to therapeutics that have extended the survival of cancer patients, highlighting the need for new interventions. To examine the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) in patients with LMD, we completed two phase II clinical trials. Here, we investigate the cellular and molecular features underpinning observed patient trajectories in these trials by applying single-cell RNA and cell-free DNA profiling to longitudinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) draws from enrolled patients. We recover immune and malignant cell types in the CSF, characterize cell behavior changes following ICI, and identify genomic features associated with relevant clinical phenomena. Overall, our study describes the liquid LMD tumor microenvironment prior to and following ICI treatment and demonstrates clinical utility of cell-free and single-cell genomic measurements for LMD research.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which most often presents with patchy lesions in the terminal ileum and colon and requires complex clinical care. Recent advances in the targeting of cytokines and leukocyte migration have greatly advanced treatment options, but most patients still relapse and inevitably progress. Although single-cell approaches are transforming our ability to understand the barrier tissue biology of inflammatory disease, comprehensive single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) atlases of IBD to date have largely sampled pre-treated patients with established disease. This has limited our understanding of which cell types, subsets, and states at diagnosis are predictive of disease severity and response to treatment. Here, through a combined clinical, flow cytometric, and scRNA-seq study, we profile diagnostic human biopsies from the terminal ileum of treatment-naive pediatric patients with Crohn’s disease (pediCD; n=14) and from non-inflamed pediatric controls with functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID; n=13). To fully resolve and annotate epithelial, stromal, and immune cell states among the 201,883 single-cell transcriptomes, we develop and deploy a principled and unbiased tiered clustering approach, ARBOL, yielding 138 FGID and 305 pediCD end cell clusters. Notably, through both flow cytometry and scRNA-seq, we observe that at the level of broad cell types, treatment-naive pediCD is not readily distinguishable from FGID in cellular composition. However, by integrating high-resolution scRNA-seq analysis, we identify significant differences in cell states that arise during pediCD relative to FGID. Furthermore, by closely linking our scRNA-seq analysis with clinical meta-data, we resolve a vector of lymphoid, myeloid, and epithelial cell states in treatment-naive samples which can distinguish patients with less severe disease (those not on anti-TNF therapies (NOA)), from those with more severe disease at presentation who require anti-TNF therapies. Moreover, this vector was also able to distinguish those patients that achieve a full response (FR) to anti-TNF blockade from those more treatment-resistant patients who only achieve a partial response (PR). Our study jointly leverages a treatment-naive cohort, high-resolution principled scRNA-seq data analysis, and clinical outcomes to understand which baseline cell states may predict inflammatory disease trajectory.
Prior studies have demonstrated that immunologic dysfunction underpins severe illness in COVID-19 patients, but have lacked an in-depth analysis of the immunologic drivers of death in the most critically ill patients. We performed immunophenotyping of viral antigen-specific and unconventional T cell responses, neutralizing antibodies, and serum proteins in critically ill patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection, using influenza infection, SARS-CoV-2-convalescent health care workers, and healthy adults as controls. We identify mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cell activation as an independent and significant predictor of death in COVID-19 (HR = 5.92, 95% CI = 2.49–14.1). MAIT cell activation correlates with several other mortality-associated immunologic measures including broad activation of CD8+ T cells and non-Vδ2 γδT cells, and elevated levels of cytokines and chemokines, including GM-CSF, CXCL10, CCL2, and IL-6. MAIT cell activation is also a predictor of disease severity in influenza (ECMO/death HR = 4.43, 95% CI = 1.08–18.2). Single-cell RNA-sequencing reveals a shift from focused IFNα-driven signals in COVID-19 ICU patients who survive to broad pro-inflammatory responses in fatal COVID-19 –a feature not observed in severe influenza. We conclude that fatal COVID-19 infection is driven by uncoordinated inflammatory responses that drive a hierarchy of T cell activation, elements of which can serve as prognostic indicators and potential targets for immune intervention.
SARS-CoV-2 infects epithelial cells of the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract and causes related symptoms. HIV infection impairs gut homeostasis and is associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 fatality. To investigate the potential link between these observations, we analyzed single-cell transcriptional profiles and SARS-CoV-2 entry receptor expression across lymphoid and mucosal human tissue from chronically HIV-infected individuals and uninfected controls. Absorptive gut enterocytes displayed the highest coexpression of SARS-CoV-2 receptors ACE2, TMPRSS2, and TMPRSS4, of which ACE2 expression was associated with canonical interferon response and antiviral genes. Chronic treated HIV infection was associated with a clear antiviral response in gut enterocytes and, unexpectedly, with a substantial reduction of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 target cells. Gut tissue from SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals, however, showed abundant SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein in both the large and small intestine, including an HIV-coinfected individual. Thus, upregulation of antiviral response genes and downregulation of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in the GI tract of HIV-infected individuals does not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in this compartment. The impact of these HIV-associated intestinal mucosal changes on SARS-CoV-2 infection dynamics, disease severity, and vaccine responses remains unclear and requires further investigation.
A cell’s phenotype and function are influenced by dynamic interactions with its microenvironment. To examine cellular spatiotemporal activity, we developed SPACECAT—Spatially PhotoActivatable Color Encoded Cell Address Tags—to annotate, track, and isolate cells while preserving viability. In SPACECAT, samples are stained with photocaged fluorescent molecules, and cells are labeled by uncaging those molecules with user-patterned near-UV light. SPACECAT offers single-cell precision and temporal stability across diverse cell and tissue types. Illustratively, we target crypt-like regions in patient-derived intestinal organoids to enrich for stem-like and actively mitotic cells, matching literature expectations. Moreover, we apply SPACECAT to ex vivo tissue sections from four healthy organs and an autochthonous lung tumor model. Lastly, we provide a computational framework to identify spatially-biased transcriptome patterns and enriched phenotypes. This minimally perturbative and broadly applicable method links cellular spatiotemporal and/or behavioral phenotypes with diverse downstream assays, enabling insights into the connections between tissue microenvironments and (dys)function.
SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause severe respiratory COVID-19. However, many individuals present with isolated upper respiratory symptoms, suggesting potential to constrain viral pathology to the nasopharynx. Which cells SARS-CoV-2 primarily targets and how infection influences the respiratory epithelium remains incompletely understood. We performed scRNA-seq on nasopharyngeal swabs from 58 healthy and COVID-19 participants. During COVID-19, we observe expansion of secretory, loss of ciliated, and epithelial cell repopulation via deuterosomal expansion. In mild/moderate COVID-19, epithelial cells express anti-viral/interferon-responsive genes, while cells in severe COVID-19 have muted anti-viral responses despite equivalent viral loads. SARS-CoV-2 RNA+ host-target cells are highly heterogenous, including developing ciliated, interferon-responsive ciliated, AZGP1high goblet, and KRT13+ “hillock”-like cells, and we identify genes associated with susceptibility, resistance, or infection response. Our study defines protective and detrimental responses to SARS-CoV-2, the direct viral targets of infection, and suggests that failed nasal epithelial anti-viral immunity may underlie and precede severe COVID-19.
Our data indicate that, in addition to canonical TFR cells, there exists a second population of Foxp3 GC T cells that arises immediately before GC contraction, through the up-regulation of Foxp3 and limited acquisition of Treg-like features by TFH cells. Functional experiments support a model in which the contraction, and eventual shutdown, of late-stage GCs is promoted by acquisition of Foxp3 by this TFH cell population. These findings raise the possibility that GC shutdown is an active process rather than simply a result of the progressive consumption of antigen by GC B cells. Manipulating this process may provide an avenue toward extending GC lifetime, potentially contributing to the induction of highly mutated antibodies by vaccination.
Granulomas are complex cellular structures composed predominantly of macrophages and lymphocytes that function to contain and kill invading pathogens. Here, we investigated the single-cell phenotypes associated with antimicrobial responses in human leprosy granulomas by applying single-cell and spatial sequencing to leprosy biopsy specimens. We focused on reversal reactions (RRs), a dynamic process whereby some patients with disseminated lepromatous leprosy (L-lep) transition toward self-limiting tuberculoid leprosy (T-lep), mounting effective antimicrobial responses. We identified a set of genes encoding proteins involved in antimicrobial responses that are differentially expressed in RR versus L-lep lesions and regulated by interferon-γ and interleukin-1β. By integrating the spatial coordinates of the key cell types and antimicrobial gene expression in RR and T-lep lesions, we constructed a map revealing the organized architecture of granulomas depicting compositional and functional layers by which macrophages, T cells, keratinocytes and fibroblasts can each contribute to the antimicrobial response.
The skin lesion erythema migrans (EM) is an initial sign of the Ixodes tick–transmitted Borreliella spirochetal infection known as Lyme disease. T cells and innate immune cells have previously been shown to predominate the EM lesion and promote the reaction. Despite the established importance of B cells and antibodies in preventing infection, the role of B cells in the skin immune response to Borreliella is unknown. Here, we used single-cell RNA-Seq in conjunction with B cell receptor (BCR) sequencing to immunophenotype EM lesions and their associated B cells and BCR repertoires. We found that B cells were more abundant in EM in comparison with autologous uninvolved skin; many were clonally expanded and had circulating relatives. EM-associated B cells upregulated
the expression of MHC class II genes and exhibited preferential IgM isotype usage. A subset also exhibited low levels of somatic hypermutation despite a gene expression profile consistent with memory B cells. Our study demonstrates that single-cell gene expression with paired BCR sequencing can be used to interrogate the sparse B cell populations in human skin and reveals that B cells in the skin infection site in early Lyme disease expressed a phenotype consistent with local antigen presentation and antibody production.
Obesity is an established risk factor for cancer in many tissues. In the mammalian intestine, a pro-obesity high-fat diet (HFD) promotes regeneration and tumorigenesis by enhancing intestinal stem cell (ISC) numbers, proliferation, and function. Although PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor) nuclear receptor activity has been proposed to facilitate these effects, their exact role is unclear. Here we find that, in loss-of-function in vivo models, PPARα and PPARδ contribute to the HFD response in ISCs. Mechanistically, both PPARs do so by robustly inducing a downstream fatty acid oxidation (FAO) metabolic program. Pharmacologic and genetic disruption of CPT1A (the rate-controlling enzyme of mitochondrial FAO) blunts the HFD phenotype in ISCs. Furthermore, inhibition of CPT1A dampens the pro-tumorigenic consequences of a HFD on early tumor incidence and progression. These findings demonstrate that inhibition of a HFD-activated FAO program creates a therapeutic opportunity to counter the effects of a HFD on ISCs and intestinal tumorigenesis.
Immune checkpoint blockers (ICBs) have failed in all phase III glioblastoma (GBM) trials. Here, we show that regulatory T (Treg) cells play a key role in GBM resistance to ICBs in experimental gliomas. Targeting glucocorticoid-induced TNFR-related receptor (GITR) in Treg cells using an agonistic antibody (αGITR) promotes CD4 Treg cell differentiation into CD4 effector T cells, alleviates Treg cell-mediated suppression of anti-tumor immune response, and induces potent anti-tumor effector cells in GBM. The reprogrammed GBM-infiltrating Treg cells express genes associated with a Th1 response signature, produce IFNγ, and acquire cytotoxic activity against GBM tumor cells while losing their suppressive function. αGITR and αPD1 antibodies increase survival benefit in three experimental GBM models, with a fraction of cohorts exhibiting complete tumor eradication and immune memory upon tumor re-challenge. Moreover, αGITR and αPD1 synergize with the standard of care treatment for newly-diagnosed GBM, enhancing the cure rates in these GBM models.
COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, can result in acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiple-organ failure, but little is known about its pathophysiology. Here, we generated single-cell atlases of 23 lung, 16 kidney, 16 liver and 19 heart COVID-19 autopsy donor tissue samples, and spatial atlases of 14 lung donors. Integrated computational analysis uncovered substantial remodeling in the lung epithelial, immune and stromal compartments, with evidence of multiple paths of failed tissue regeneration, including defective alveolar type 2 differentiation and expansion of fibroblasts and putative TP63+ intrapulmonary basal-like progenitor cells. Viral RNAs were enriched in mononuclear phagocytic and endothelial lung cells which induced specific host programs. Spatial analysis in lung distinguished inflammatory host responses in lung regions with and without viral RNA. Analysis of the other tissue atlases showed transcriptional alterations in multiple cell types in COVID-19 donor heart tissue, and mapped cell types and genes implicated with disease severity based on COVID-19 GWAS. Our foundational dataset elucidates the biological impact of severe SARS-CoV-2 infection across the body, a key step towards new treatments.
Environmental enteropathy (EE) is a subclinical condition of the small intestine that is highly prevalent in low- and middle income countries. It is thought to be a primary cause of most global growth-stunting cases and a key contributing factor to childhood malnutrition and diminished oral vaccine responses. While EE has been shown to be the byproduct of recurrent enteric infection, to date, its full pathophysiology remains unclear. Here, we mapped the cellular and molecular correlates of EE severity by performing high-throughput single-cell RNA-sequencing on 33 small intestinal biopsies from 11 adults with EE from Lusaka, Zambia (8 HIV negative, 3 HIV positive) and 6 adults without EE in Boston, USA. Using the resulting cellular atlas, we scored existing bulk-transcriptomic signatures of reduced villus height and decreased plasma LPS levels in EE, finding that these signatures may be driven by an increased abundance of surface mucosal cells (a gastric-like subset previously implicated in epithelial repair in the gastrointestinal tract). In addition, we identified several cell subsets whose fractional abundances associated with histological determined EE severity, small intestinal region, and HIV infection. Furthermore, by comparing distal duodenal EE samples with those from two U.S. control cohorts, we identified broadly decreased epithelial proliferative signaling, lower fractional abundances of goblet cells, and a T cell subset highly expressing a transcriptional signature of tissue-resident memory cells but with increased pro-inflammatory cytokine expression in EE. Altogether, our work illuminates the epithelial and immune correlates of EE severity and provides new molecular targets for intervention.
Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a class of innate-like T cells that utilize a semi-invariant αβ T cell receptor to recognize small molecule ligands produced by bacteria and fungi. Despite growing evidence that immune cells at mucosal surfaces are often phenotypically and functionally distinct from those in the peripheral circulation, knowledge about the characteristics of MAIT cells at the lung mucosal surface, the site of exposure to respiratory pathogens, is limited. HIV infection has been shown to have a profound effect on the number and function of MAIT cells in the peripheral blood, but its effect on lung mucosal MAIT cells is unknown. We examined the phenotypic, functional, and transcriptomic features of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-related (MR1)-restricted MAIT cells from the peripheral blood and bronchoalveolar compartments of otherwise healthy individuals with latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection who were either HIV uninfected or HIV infected. Peripheral blood MAIT cells consistently co-expressed typical MAIT cell surface markers CD161 and CD26 in HIV-negative individuals, while paired bronchoalveolar MAIT cells displayed heterogenous expression of these markers. Bronchoalveolar MAIT cells produced lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-γ and expressed higher levels of co-inhibitory markers PD-1 and TIM-3 than peripheral MAIT cells. HIV infection resulted in decreased frequencies and pro-inflammatory function of peripheral blood MAIT cells, while in the bronchoalveolar compartment MAIT cell frequency was decreased but phenotype and function were not significantly altered. Single-cell transcriptomic analysis demonstrated greater heterogeneity among bronchoalveolar compared to peripheral blood MAIT cells and suggested a distinct subset in the bronchoalveolar compartment. The transcriptional features of this bronchoalveolar subset were associated with MAIT cell tissue repair functions. In summary, we found previously undescribed phenotypic and transcriptional heterogeneity of bronchoalveolar MAIT cells in HIV-negative people. In HIV infection, we found numeric depletion of MAIT cells in both anatomical compartments but preservation of the novel phenotypic and transcriptional features of bronchoalveolar MAIT cells.
Mast cells (MCs) play a pathobiologic role in type 2 (T2) allergic inflammatory diseases of the airway, including asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (CRSwNP). Distinct MC subsets infiltrate the airway mucosa in T2 disease, including subepithelial MCs expressing the proteases tryptase and chymase (MCTC) and epithelial MCs expressing tryptase without chymase (MCT). However, mechanisms underlying MC expansion and the transcriptional programs underlying their heterogeneity are poorly understood. Here, we use flow cytometry and single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) to conduct a comprehensive analysis of human MC hyperplasia in CRSwNP, a T2 cytokine–mediated inflammatory disease. We link discrete cell surface phenotypes to the distinct transcriptomes of CRSwNP MCT and MCTC, which represent polarized ends of a transcriptional gradient of nasal polyp MCs. We find a subepithelial population of CD38highCD117high MCs that is markedly expanded during T2 inflammation. These CD38highCD117high MCs exhibit an intermediate phenotype relative to the expanded MCT and MCTC subsets. CD38highCD117high MCs are distinct from circulating MC progenitors and are enriched for proliferation, which is markedly increased in CRSwNP patients with aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease, a severe disease subset characterized by increased MC burden and elevated MC activation. We observe that MCs expressing a polyp MCT–like effector program are also found within the lung during fibrotic diseases and asthma, and further identify marked differences between MCTC in nasal polyps and skin. These results indicate that MCs display distinct inflammation-associated effector programs and suggest that in situ MC proliferation is a major component of MC hyperplasia in human T2 inflammation.
Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is a devastating form of stroke with a high mortality rate and few treatment options. Discovery of therapeutic interventions has been slow given the challenges associated with studying acute injury in the human brain. Inflammation induced by exposure of brain tissue to blood appears to be a major part of brain tissue injury. Here, we longitudinally profiled blood and cerebral hematoma effluent from a patient enrolled in the Minimally Invasive Surgery with Thrombolysis in Intracerebral Hemorrhage Evacuation trial, offering a rare window into the local and systemic immune responses to acute brain injury. Using single-cell RNA-Seq (scRNA-Seq), this is the first report to our knowledge that characterized the local cellular response during ICH in the brain of a living patient at single-cell resolution. Our analysis revealed shifts in the activation states of myeloid and T cells in the brain over time, suggesting that leukocyte responses are dynamically reshaped by the hematoma microenvironment. Interestingly, the patient had an asymptomatic rebleed that our transcriptional data indicated occurred prior to detection by CT scan. This case highlights the rapid immune dynamics in the brain after ICH and suggests that sensitive methods such as scRNA-Seq would enable greater understanding of complex intracerebral events.
Our tissues are complex and dynamic multicellular ecosystems. Studies of tissue physiology have helped establish their basic cellular components, and powerful profiling methods have refined lists of cell types/states and their attributes. Yet, fundamental questions remain as to what influences a cell’s specific role(s) within a tissue and how the collective activity of many cells drives emergent tissue-level functional and dysfunctional behaviors.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and accessory proteases (TMPRSS2 and CTSL) are needed for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cellular entry, and their expression may shed light on viral tropism and impact across the body. We assessed the cell-type-specific expression of ACE2, TMPRSS2 and CTSL across 107 single-cell RNA-sequencing studies from different tissues. ACE2, TMPRSS2 and CTSL are coexpressed in specific subsets of respiratory epithelial cells in the nasal passages, airways and alveoli, and in cells from other organs associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission or pathology. We performed a meta-analysis of 31 lung single-cell RNA-sequencing studies with 1,320,896 cells from 377 nasal, airway and lung parenchyma samples from 228 individuals. This revealed cell-type-specific associations of age, sex and smoking with expression levels of ACE2, TMPRSS2 and CTSL. Expression of entry factors increased with age and in males, including in airway secretory cells and alveolar type 2 cells. Expression programs shared by ACE2+TMPRSS2+ cells in nasal, lung and gut tissues included genes that may mediate viral entry, key immune functions and epithelial–macrophage cross-talk, such as genes involved in the interleukin-6, interleukin-1, tumor necrosis factor and complement pathways. Cell-type-specific expression patterns may contribute to the pathogenesis of COVID-19, and our work highlights putative molecular pathways for therapeutic intervention.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused over 1 million deaths globally, mostly due to acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome, or direct complications resulting in multiple-organ failures. Little is known about the host tissue immune and cellular responses associated with COVID-19 infection, symptoms, and lethality. To address this, we collected tissues from 11 organs during the clinical autopsy of 17 individuals who succumbed to COVID-19, resulting in a tissue bank of approximately 420 specimens. We generated comprehensive cellular maps capturing COVID-19 biology related to patients’ demise through single-cell and single-nucleus RNA-Seq of lung, kidney, liver and heart tissues, and further contextualized our findings through spatial RNA profiling of distinct lung regions. We developed a computational framework that incorporates removal of ambient RNA and automated cell type annotation to facilitate comparison with other healthy and diseased tissue atlases. In the lung, we uncovered significantly altered transcriptional programs within the epithelial, immune, and stromal compartments and cell intrinsic changes in multiple cell types relative to lung tissue from healthy controls. We observed evidence of: alveolar type 2 (AT2) differentiation replacing depleted alveolar type 1 (AT1) lung epithelial cells, as previously seen in fibrosis; a concomitant increase in myofibroblasts reflective of defective tissue repair; and, putative TP63+ intrapulmonary basal-like progenitor (IPBLP) cells, similar to cells identified in H1N1 influenza, that may serve as an emergency cellular reserve for severely damaged alveoli. Together, these findings suggest the activation and failure of multiple avenues for regeneration of the epithelium in these terminal lungs. SARS-CoV-2 RNA reads were enriched in lung mononuclear phagocytic cells and endothelial cells, and these cells expressed distinct host response transcriptional programs. We corroborated the compositional and transcriptional changes in lung tissue through spatial analysis of RNA profiles in situ and distinguished unique tissue host responses between regions with and without viral RNA, and in COVID-19 donor tissues relative to healthy lung. Finally, we analyzed genetic regions implicated in COVID-19 GWAS with transcriptomic data to implicate specific cell types and genes associated with disease severity. Overall, our COVID-19 cell atlas is a foundational dataset to better understand the biological impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection across the human body and empowers the identification of new therapeutic interventions and prevention strategies.
Infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can lead to severe lower respiratory illness including pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which can result in profound morbidity and mortality. However, many infected individuals are either asymptomatic or have isolated upper respiratory symptoms, which suggests that the upper airways represent the initial site of viral infection, and that some individuals are able to largely constrain viral pathology to the nasal and oropharyngeal tissues. Which cell types in the human nasopharynx are the primary targets of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and how infection influences the cellular organization of the respiratory epithelium remains incompletely understood. Here, we present nasopharyngeal samples from a cohort of 35 individuals with COVID-19, representing a wide spectrum of disease states from ambulatory to critically ill, as well as 23 healthy and intubated patients without COVID-19. Using standard nasopharyngeal swabs, we collected viable cells and performed single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq), simultaneously profiling both host and viral RNA. We find that following infection with SARS-CoV-2, the upper respiratory epithelium undergoes massive reorganization: secretory cells diversify and expand, and mature epithelial cells are preferentially lost. Further, we observe evidence for deuterosomal cell and immature ciliated cell expansion, potentially representing active repopulation of lost ciliated cells through coupled secretory cell differentiation. Epithelial cells from participants with mild/moderate COVID-19 show extensive induction of genes associated with anti-viral and type I interferon responses. In contrast, cells from participants with severe lower respiratory symptoms appear globally muted in their anti-viral capacity, despite substantially higher local inflammatory myeloid populations and equivalent nasal viral loads. This suggests an essential role for intrinsic, local epithelial immunity in curbing and constraining viral-induced pathology. Using a custom computational pipeline, we characterized cell-associated SARS-CoV-2 RNA and identified rare cells with RNA intermediates strongly suggestive of active replication. Both within and across individuals, we find remarkable diversity and heterogeneity among SARS-CoV-2 RNA+ host cells, including developing/immature and interferon-responsive ciliated cells, KRT13+ “hillock”-like cells, and unique subsets of secretory, goblet, and squamous cells. Finally, SARS-CoV-2 RNA+ cells, as compared to uninfected bystanders, are enriched for genes involved in susceptibility (e.g., CTSL, TMPRSS2) or response (e.g., MX1, IFITM3, EIF2AK2) to infection. Together, this work defines both protective and detrimental host responses to SARS-CoV-2, determines the direct viral targets of infection, and suggests that failed anti-viral epithelial immunity in the nasal mucosa may underlie the progression to severe COVID-19.
Opportunities to interrogate the immune responses in the injured tissue of living patients suffering from acute sterile injuries such as stroke and heart attack are limited. We leveraged a clinical trial of minimally invasive neurosurgery for patients with intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), a severely disabling subtype of stroke, to investigate the dynamics of inflammation at the site of brain injury over time. Longitudinal transcriptional profiling of CD14+monocytes/macrophages and neutrophils from hematomas of patients with ICH revealed that the myeloid response to ICH within the hematoma is distinct from that in the blood and occurs in stages conserved across the patient cohort. Initially, hematoma myeloid cells expressed a robust anabolic proinflammatory profile characterized by activation of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) and expression of genes encoding immune factors and glycolysis. Subsequently, inflammatory gene expression decreased over time, whereas anti-inflammatory circuits were maintained and phagocytic and antioxidative pathways up-regulated. During this transition to immune resolution, glycolysis gene expression and levels of the potent proresolution lipid mediator prostaglandin E2 remained elevated in the hematoma, and unexpectedly, these elevations correlated with positive patient outcomes. Ex vivo activation of human macrophages by ICH-associated stimuli highlighted an important role for HIFs in production of both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory factors, including PGE2, which, in turn, augmented VEGF production. Our findings define the time course of myeloid activation in the human brain after ICH, revealing a conserved progression of immune responses from proinflammatory to proresolution states in humans after brain injury and identifying transcriptional programs associated with neurological recovery.
Organ infiltration by donor T cells is critical to the development of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) in recipients after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (allo-HCT). However, deconvoluting the transcriptional programs of newly recruited donor T cells from those of tissue-resident T cells in aGVHD target organs remains a challenge. Here, we combined the serial intravascular staining technique with single-cell RNA sequencing to dissect the tightly connected processes by which donor T cells initially infiltrate tissues and then establish a pathogenic tissue residency program in a rhesus macaque allo-HCT model that develops aGVHD. Our results enabled creation of a spatiotemporal map of the transcriptional programs controlling donor CD8+ T cell infiltration into the primary aGVHD target organ, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. We identified the large and small intestines as the only two sites demonstrating allo-specific, rather than lymphodepletion-driven, T cell infiltration. GI-infiltrating donor CD8+ T cells demonstrated a highly activated, cytotoxic phenotype while simultaneously developing a canonical tissue-resident memory T cell (TRM) transcriptional signature driven by interleukin-15 (IL-15)/IL-21 signaling. We found expression of a cluster of genes directly associated with tissue invasiveness, including those encoding adhesion molecules (ITGB2), specific chemokines (CCL3 and CCL4L1) and chemokine receptors (CD74), as well as multiple cytoskeletal proteins. This tissue invasion transcriptional signature was validated by its ability to discriminate the CD8+ T cell transcriptome of patients with GI aGVHD from those of GVHD-free patients. These results provide insights into the mechanisms controlling tissue occupancy of target organs by pathogenic donor CD8+ TRMcells during aGVHD in primate transplant recipients.
In late 2019 and through 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, presenting both scientific and medical challenges associated with understanding and treating a previously unknown disease. To help address the need for great understanding of COVID-19, the scientific community mobilized and banded together rapidly to characterize SARS-CoV-2 infection, pathogenesis and its distinct disease trajectories. The urgency of COVID-19 provided a pressing use-case for leveraging relatively new tools, technologies, and nascent collaborative networks. Single-cell biology is one such example that has emerged over the last decade as a powerful approach that provides unprecedented resolution to the cellular and molecular underpinnings of biological processes. Early foundational work within the single-cell community, including the Human Cell Atlas, utilized published and unpublished data to characterize the putative target cells of SARS-CoV-2 sampled from diverse organs based on expression of the viral receptor ACE2 and associated entry factors TMPRSS2 and CTSL (Muus et al., 2020; Sungnak et al., 2020; Ziegler et al., 2020). This initial characterization of reference data provided an important foundation for framing infection and pathology in the airway as well as other organs. However, initial community analysis was limited to samples derived from uninfected donors and other previously-sampled disease indications. This report provides an overview of a single-cell data resource derived from samples from COVID-19 patients along with initial observations and guidance on data reuse and exploration.
Barrier tissue immune responses are regulated in part by nociceptors. Nociceptor ablation alters local immune responses at peripheral sites and within draining lymph nodes (LNs). The mechanisms and significance of nociceptor-dependent modulation of LN function are unknown. Using high-resolution imaging, viral tracing, single-cell transcriptomics, and optogenetics, we identified and functionally tested a sensory neuro-immune circuit that is responsive to lymph-borne inflammatory signals. Transcriptomics profiling revealed that multiple sensory neuron subsets, predominantly peptidergic nociceptors, innervate LNs, distinct from those innervating surrounding skin. To uncover LN-resident cells that may interact with LN-innervating sensory neurons, we generated a LN single-cell transcriptomics atlas and nominated nociceptor target populations and interaction modalities. Optogenetic stimulation of LN-innervating sensory fibers triggered rapid transcriptional changes in the predicted interacting cell types, particularly endothelium, stromal cells, and innate leukocytes. Thus, a unique population of sensory neurons monitors peripheral LNs and may locally regulate gene expression.
During affinity maturation, germinal center (GC) B cells alternate between proliferation and somatic hypermutation in the dark zone (DZ) and affinity-dependent selection in the light zone (LZ). This anatomical segregation imposes that the vigorous proliferation that allows clonal expansion of positively selected GC B cells takes place ostensibly in the absence of the signals that triggered selection in the LZ, as if by “inertia.” We find that such inertial cycles specifically require the cell cycle regulator cyclin D3. Cyclin D3 dose-dependently controls the extent to which B cells proliferate in the DZ and is essential for effective clonal expansion of GC B cells in response to strong T follicular helper (Tfh) cell help. Introduction into the Ccnd3 gene of a Burkitt lymphoma–associated gain-of-function mutation (T283A) leads to larger GCs with increased DZ proliferation and, in older mice, clonal B cell lymphoproliferation, suggesting that the DZ inertial cell cycle program can be coopted by B cells undergoing malignant transformation
Recent political and social events, mainly those originating in the USA, have triggered an intense desire for equity in all facets of the human experience. More specifically, actions engendered by the Black Lives Matter movement and others have led to the scrutinizing of equity across a wide range of fields, from politics and business to academia and scientific research. In science, in particular, several major journals have published opinion pieces and editorials seeking greater equity or relating to the ‘non-white’ experience. Many of their readers have been stunned by the revelations. Indeed, the scientific community is only now coming to terms with an unsettling and uncomfortable truth: structural exclusion of non-white people permeates all levels of the scientific enterprise. That being said, with awareness comes opportunity. New frameworks for describing and addressing these issues have recently emerged, creating a structure with which groups can each consider how to best internalize and embody the lessons in their own scientific initiatives.
In the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) consortium, equity has been a point of emphasis from inception in 2016 for one simple reason: the HCA’s success depends upon it. Fundamentally, the HCA is meant to be a foundational resource, inclusive of the many cell types and states found in healthy people across the globe. That resource can then be used to address a wide range of scientific questions and, in the future, to facilitate a better understanding of disease. This mission demands, explicitly, the inclusion of representation along axes of sex, age, ethnicity, environment, socioeconomic status and, in some cases, disease susceptibility in its biospecimens. Moreover, it requires broad participation to ensure comprehensive coverage and identify barriers to success and support continuity, and necessitates reciprocal, balanced benefit from the methods, data and results to ensure global engagement.
To this end, the HCA has set ambitious and dynamic equity goals for itself. Below, we describe key lessons learned through equity activities thus far, as well as our future plans.
Granulomas are complex cellular structures comprised predominantly of macrophages and lymphocytes that function to contain and kill invading pathogens. Here, we investigated single cell phenotypes associated with antimicrobial responses in human leprosy granulomas by applying single cell and spatial sequencing to leprosy biopsy specimens. We focused on reversal reactions (RR), a dynamic process in which some patients with disseminated lepromatous leprosy (L-lep) transition towards self-limiting tuberculoid leprosy (T-lep), mounting effective antimicrobial responses. We identified a set of genes encoding proteins involved in antimicrobial responses that are differentially expressed in RR versus L-lep lesions, and regulated by IFN-γ and IL-1β. By integrating the spatial coordinates of the key cell types and antimicrobial gene expression in RR and T-lep lesions, we constructed a map revealing the organized architecture of granulomas depicting compositional and functional layers by which macrophages, T cells, keratinocytes and fibroblasts contribute to the antimicrobial response.
The liver plays a central role in metabolism, protein synthesis and detoxification. It possesses unique regenerative capacity upon injury. While many factors regulating cellular proliferation during liver repair have been identified, the mechanisms by which the injured liver maintains vital functions prior to tissue recovery are unknown. Here, we identify a new phase of functional compensation following acute liver injury that occurs prior to cellular proliferation. By coupling single-cell RNA-seq with in situ transcriptional analyses in two independent murine liver injury models, we discover adaptive reprogramming to ensure expression of both injury response and core liver function genes dependent on macrophage-derived WNT/β-catenin signaling. Interestingly, transcriptional compensation is most prominent in non-proliferating cells, clearly delineating two temporally distinct phases of liver recovery. Overall, our work describes a mechanism by which the liver maintains essential physiological functions prior to cellular reconstitution and characterizes macrophage-derived WNT signals required for this compensation.
During affinity maturation, germinal center (GC) B cells alternate between proliferation and somatic hypermutation in the dark zone (DZ) and affinity-dependent selection in the light zone (LZ). This anatomical segregation imposes that the vigorous proliferation that allows clonal expansion of positively-selected GC B cells takes place ostensibly in the absence of the signals that triggered selection in the LZ, as if by “inertia.” We find that such inertial cycles specifically require the cell cycle regulator cyclin D3. Cyclin D3 dose-dependently controls the extent to which B cells proliferate in the DZ and is essential for effective clonal expansion of GC B cells in response to strong T follicular helper (Tfh) cell help. Introduction into the Ccnd3 gene of a Burkitt lymphoma-associated gain-of-function mutation (T283A) leads to larger GCs with increased DZ proliferation and, in older mice, to clonal B cell lymphoproliferation, suggesting that the DZ inertial cell cycle program can be coopted by B cells undergoing malignant transformation.
Central to anti-tumor immunity are dendritic cells (DCs), which stimulate long-lived protective T cell responses. Recent studies have demonstrated that DCs can achieve a state of hyperactivation, which is associated with inflammasome activities within living cells. Herein, we report that hyperactive DCs have an enhanced ability to migrate to draining lymph nodes and stimulate potent cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses. This enhanced migratory activity is dependent on the chemokine receptor CCR7 and is associated with a unique transcriptional program that is not observed in conventionally activated or pyroptotic DCs. We show that hyperactivating stimuli are uniquely capable of inducing durable CTL-mediated anti-tumor immunity against tumors that are sensitive or resistant to PD-1 inhibition. These protective responses are intrinsic to the cDC1 subset of DCs, depend on the inflammasome-dependent cytokine IL-1β, and enable tumor lysates to serve as immunogens. If these activities are verified in humans, hyperactive DCs may impact immunotherapy.
Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is a devastating form of stroke with a high mortality rate and few treatment options. Discovery of therapeutic interventions has been slow given the challenges associated with studying acute injury, particularly over time, in the human brain. Inflammation induced by exposure of brain tissue to blood appears to be a major part of brain tissue injury. Here we longitudinally profiled blood and cerebral hematoma effluent from a patient enrolled in the Minimally Invasive Surgery with Thrombolysis in Intracerebral Haemorrhage Evacuation (MISTIEIII) trial, offering a rare window into the local and systemic immune responses to acute brain injury. Using single-cell RNA-sequencing, we characterized the local cellular response during ICH in the brain of a living patient at single-cell resolution for the first time. Our analysis revealed rapid shifts in the activation states of myeloid and T cells in the brain over time, suggesting that leukocyte responses are dynamically reshaped by the hematoma microenvironment. Interestingly, the patient had an asymptomatic re-bleed (second local exposure to blood) that our transcriptional data indicated occurred more than 30 hours prior to detection by CT scan. This case highlights the rapid immune dynamics in the brain after ICH and suggests that sensitive methods like scRNA-seq can inform our understanding of complex intracerebral events.
Prostate cancer is the second most common malignancy in men worldwide and consists of a mixture of tumor and non-tumor cell types. To characterize the prostate cancer tumor microenvironment, we performed single-cell RNA-sequencing on prostate biopsies, prostatectomy specimens, and patient-derived organoids from localized prostate cancer patients. We identify a population of tumor-associated club cells that may act as progenitor cells and uncover heterogeneous cellular states in prostate epithelial cells marked by high androgen signaling states that are enriched in prostate cancer. ERG- tumor cells, compared to ERG+ cells, demonstrate shared heterogeneity with surrounding luminal epithelial cells and appear to give rise to common tumor microenvironment responses. Finally, we show that prostate epithelial organoids recapitulate tumor-associated epithelial cell states and are enriched with distinct cell types and states from their parent tissues. Our results provide diagnostically relevant insights and advance our understanding of the cellular states associated with prostate carcinogenesis.
Ebola virus (EBOV) causes epidemics with high mortality yet remains understudied due to the challenge of experimentation in high-containment and outbreak settings. Here, we used single-cell transcriptomics and CyTOF-based single-cell protein quantification to characterize peripheral immune cells during EBOV infection in rhesus monkeys. We obtained 100,000 transcriptomes and 15,000,000 protein profiles, finding that immature, proliferative monocyte-lineage cells with reduced antigen-presentation capacity replace conventional monocyte subsets, while lymphocytes upregulate apoptosis genes and decline in abundance. By quantifying intracellular viral RNA, we identify molecular determinants of tropism among circulating immune cells and examine temporal dynamics in viral and host gene expression. Within infected cells, EBOV downregulates STAT1 mRNA and interferon signaling, and it upregulates putative pro-viral genes (e.g., DYNLL1 and HSPA5), nominating pathways the virus manipulates for its replication. This study sheds light on EBOV tropism, replication dynamics, and elicited immune response and provides a framework for characterizing host-virus interactions under maximum containment.
In humans and nonhuman primates, Mycobacterium tuberculosis lung infection yields a complex multicellular structure: the tuberculosis granuloma. All granulomas are not equivalent, however, even within the same host: in some, local immune activity promotes bacterial clearance, while in others, it allows persistence or outgrowth. Here, we used single-cell RNA-sequencing to define holistically cellular responses associated with control in cynomolgus macaques. Granulomas that facilitated bacterial killing contained significantly higher proportions of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells expressing hybrid Type1-Type17 immune responses or stem-like features and CD8-enriched T cells with specific cytotoxic functions; failure to control correlated with mast cell, plasma cell and fibroblast abundance. Co-registering these data with serial PET-CT imaging suggests that a degree of early immune control can be achieved through cytotoxic activity, but that more robust restriction only arises after the priming of specific adaptive immune responses, defining new targets for vaccination and treatment.
High-throughput single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) methodologies enable characterization of complex biological samples by increasing the number of cells that can be profiled contemporaneously. Nevertheless, these approaches recover less information per cell than low-throughput strategies. To accurately report the expression of key phenotypic features of cells, scRNA-seq platforms are needed that are both high fidelity and high throughput. To address this need, we created Seq-Well S3 (“Second-Strand Synthesis”), a massively parallel scRNA-seq protocol that uses a randomly primed second-strand synthesis to recover complementary DNA (cDNA) molecules that were successfully reverse transcribed but to which a second oligonucleotide handle, necessary for subsequent whole transcriptome amplification, was not appended due to inefficient template switching. Seq-Well S3 increased the efficiency of transcript capture and gene detection compared with that of previous iterations by up to 10- and 5-fold, respectively. We used Seq-Well S3 to chart the transcriptional landscape of five human inflammatory skin diseases, thus providing a resource for the further study of human skin inflammation.
Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are important for response to infection and for immune development in early life. HIV infection in adults depletes circulating ILCs, but the impact on children infected from birth remains unknown. We study vertically HIV-infected children from birth to adulthood and find severe and persistent depletion of all circulating ILCs that, unlike CD4+ T cells, are not restored by long-term antiretroviral therapy unless initiated at birth. Remaining ILCs upregulate genes associated with cellular activation and metabolic perturbation. Unlike HIV-infected adults, ILCs are also profoundly depleted in tonsils of vertically infected children. Transcriptional profiling of remaining ILCs reveals ongoing cell-type-specific activity despite anti-retroviral therapy. Collectively, these data suggest an important and ongoing role for ILCs in lymphoid tissue of HIV-infected children from birth, where persistent depletion and sustained transcriptional activity are likely to have long-term immune consequences that merit further investigation.
Our nasal epithelial COVID-19 dataset, along with COVID-19 datasets from other genomics groups, can now be found at covid19cellatlas.org. This work was sponsored by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative.
Bulk transcriptomic studies have defined classical and basal-like gene expression subtypes in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) that correlate with survival and response to chemotherapy; however, the underlying mechanisms that govern these subtypes and their heterogeneity remain elusive. Here, we performed single-cell RNA-sequencing of 23 metastatic PDAC needle biopsies and matched organoid models to understand how tumor cell-intrinsic features and extrinsic factors in the tumor microenvironment (TME) shape PDAC cancer cell phenotypes. We identify a novel cancer cell state that co-expresses basal-like and classical signatures, demonstrates upregulation of developmental and KRAS-driven gene expression programs, and represents a transitional intermediate between the basal-like and classical poles. Further, we observe structure to the metastatic TME supporting a model whereby reciprocal intercellular signaling shapes the local microenvironment and influences cancer cell transcriptional subtypes. In organoid culture, we find that transcriptional phenotypes are plastic and strongly skew toward the classical expression state, irrespective of genotype. Moreover, we show that patient-relevant transcriptional heterogeneity can be rescued by supplementing organoid media with factors found in the TME in a subtype-specific manner. Collectively, our study demonstrates that distinct microenvironmental signals are critical regulators of clinically relevant PDAC transcriptional states and their plasticity, identifies the necessity for considering the TME in cancer modeling efforts, and provides a generalizable approach for delineating the cell-intrinsic versus -extrinsic factors that govern tumor cell phenotypes.
B cell receptors (BCRs) display a combination of variable (V)-gene-encoded complementarity determining regions (CDRs) and adaptive/hypervariable CDR3 loops to engage antigens. It has long been proposed that the former tune for recognition of pathogens or groups of pathogens. To experimentally evaluate this within the human antibody repertoire, we perform immune challenges in transgenic mice that bear diverse human CDR3 and light chains but are constrained to different human VH–genes. We find that, of six commonly deployed VHsequences, only those CDRs encoded by IGHV1-2∗02 enable polyclonal antibody responses against bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) when introduced to the bloodstream. The LPS is from diverse strains of gram-negative bacteria, and the VH-gene-dependent responses are directed against the non-variable and universal saccrolipid substructure of this antigen. This reveals a broad-spectrum anti-LPS response in which germline-encoded CDRs naturally hardwire the human antibody repertoire for recognition of a conserved microbial target.
Studies are needed to determine the mechanisms of mucosal dysregulation in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) and differences in inflammatory responses of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) vs Crohn’s disease (CD). We used mass cytometry (CyTOF) to characterize and compare immune cell populations in the mucosa and blood from patients with IBD and without IBD (controls) at single-cell resolution. We performed CyTOF analysis of colonic mucosa samples (n = 87) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (n = 85) from patients with active or inactive UC or CD and controls. We also performed single-cell RNA sequencing, flow cytometry, and RNA in situ hybridization analyses to validate key findings. We used random forest modeling to identify differences in signatures across subject groups. Compared with controls, colonic mucosa samples from patients with IBD had increased abundances of HLA-DR+CD38+ T cells, including T-regulatory cells that produce inflammatory cytokines; CXCR3+ plasmablasts; and IL1B+ macrophages and monocytes. Colonic mucosa samples from patients with UC were characterized by expansion of IL17A+ CD161+ effector memory T cells and IL17A+ T-regulatory cells; expansion of HLA-DR+CD56+ granulocytes; and reductions in type 3 innate lymphoid cells. Mucosal samples from patients with active CD were characterized by IL1B+HLA-DR+CD38+ T cells, IL1B+TNF+IFNG+ naïve B cells, IL1B+ dendritic cells (DCs), and IL1B+ plasmacytoid DCs. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with active CD differed from those of active UC in that the peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with CD had increased IL1B+ T-regulatory cells, IL1B+ DCs and IL1B+ plasmacytoid DCs, IL1B+ monocytes, and fewer group 1 innate lymphoid cells. Random forest modeling differentiated active UC from active CD in colonic mucosa and blood samples; top discriminating features included many of the cellular populations identified above. We used single-cell technologies to identify immune cell populations specific to mucosa and blood samples from patients with active or inactive CD and UC and controls. This information might be used to develop therapies that target specific cell populations in patients with different types of IBD.
One of the central challenges in the field of allo-immunity is deciphering the mechanisms driving T cells to infiltrate and subsequently occupy target organs to cause disease. The act of CD8-dominated T cell infiltration is critical to acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD), wherein donor T cells become activated, tissue-infiltrating and highly cytotoxic, causing wide-spread tissue damage after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (allo-HCT). However, in human and non-human primate studies, deconvolving the transcriptional programs of newly recruited relative to resident memory T cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract has remained a challenge. In this study, we combined the novel technique of Serial Intravascular Staining (SIVS) with single-cell RNA-Seq (scRNA-seq) to enable detailed dissection of the tightly connected processes by which T cells first infiltrate tissues and then establish a pathogenic tissue residency program after allo-HCT in non-human primates. Our results have enabled the creation of a spatiotemporal map of the transcriptional drivers of CD8 T cell infiltration into the primary aGVHD target-organ, the GI tract. We identify the large and small intestines as the only two sites demonstrating allo-specific, rather than lymphdepletion-driven T cell infiltration. The donor CD8 T cells that infiltrate the GI tract demonstrate a highly activated, cytotoxic phenotype while simultaneously rapidly developing canonical tissue-resident memory (TRM) protein expression and transcriptional signatures, driven by IL-15/IL-21 signaling. Moreover, by combining SIVS and transcriptomic analysis, we have been able to work backwards from this pathogenic TRM programing, and, for the first time, identify a cluster of genes directly associated with tissue invasiveness, prominently including specific chemokines and adhesion molecules and their receptors, as well as a central cytoskeletal transcriptional node. The clinical relevance of this new tissue invasion signature was validated by its ability to discriminate the CD8 T cell transcriptome of patients with GI aGVHD. These results provide new insights into the mechanisms controlling tissue infiltration and pathogenic CD8 TRM transcriptional programing, uncovering critical transitions in allo-immune tissue invasion and destruction.
Ebola virus (EBOV) causes epidemics with high case fatality rates, yet remains understudied due to the challenge of experimentation in high-containment and outbreak settings. To better understand EBOV infection in vivo, we used single-cell transcriptomics and CyTOF-based single-cell protein quantification to characterize peripheral immune cell activity during EBOV infection in rhesus monkeys. We obtained 100,000 transcriptomes and 15,000,000 protein profiles, providing insight into pathogenesis. We find that immature, proliferative monocyte-lineage cells with reduced antigen presentation capacity replace conventional circulating monocyte subsets within days of infection, while lymphocytes upregulate apoptosis genes and decline in abundance. By quantifying viral RNA abundance in individual cells, we identify molecular determinants of tropism and examine temporal dynamics in viral and host gene expression. Within infected cells, we observe that EBOV down-regulates STAT1 mRNA and interferon signaling, and up-regulates putative pro-viral genes (e.g., DYNLL1 and HSPA5), nominating cellular pathways the virus manipulates for its replication. Overall, this study sheds light on EBOV tropism, replication dynamics, and elicited immune response, and provides a framework for characterizing interactions between hosts and emerging viruses in a maximum containment setting.
Despite the epidemics of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the cellular and molecular mechanisms of this disease are far from being understood. Here, we characterize and classify the cellular composition within the alveolar space and peripheral blood of COPD patients and control donors using a clinically applicable single-cell RNA-seq technology corroborated by advanced computational approaches for: machine learning-based cell-type classification, identification of differentially expressed genes, prediction of metabolic changes, and modeling of cellular trajectories within a patient cohort. These high-resolution approaches revealed: massive transcriptional plasticity of macrophages in the alveolar space with increased levels of invading and proliferating cells, loss of MHC expression, reduced cellular motility, altered lipid metabolism, and a metabolic shift reminiscent of mitochondrial dysfunction in COPD patients. Collectively, single-cell omics of multi-tissue samples was used to build the first cellular and molecular framework for COPD pathophysiology as a prerequisite to develop molecular biomarkers and causal therapies against this deadly disease.
Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) has provided a high-dimensional catalog of millions of cells across species and diseases. These data have spurred the development of hundreds of computational tools to derive novel biological insights. Here, we outline the components of scRNA-seq analytical pipelines and the computational methods that underlie these steps. We describe available methods, highlight well-executed benchmarking studies, and identify opportunities for additional benchmarking studies and computational methods. As the biochemical approaches for single-cell omics advance, we propose coupled development of robust analytical pipelines suited for the challenges that new data present and principled selection of analytical methods that are suited for the biological questions to be addressed.
Barrier tissue epithelia play an essential role in maintaining organismal homeostasis, and changes in their cellular composition have been observed in multiple human diseases. Within the small intestinal epithelium, adult stem cells integrate diverse signals to regulate regeneration and differentiation, thereby establishing overall cellularity. Accordingly, directing stem cell differentiation could provide a tractable approach to alter the abundance or quality of specialized cells of the small intestinal epithelium, including the secretory Paneth, goblet, and enteroendocrine populations. Yet, to date, there has been a lack of suitable tools and rigorous approaches to identify biological targets and pharmacological agents that can modify epithelial composition to enable causal testing of disease-associated changes with novel therapeutic candidates. To empower the search for epithelia-modifying agents, we establish a first-of-its-kind high-throughput phenotypic organoid screen. We demonstrate the ability to screen thousands of samples and uncover biological targets and associated small molecule inhibitors which translate to in vivo. This approach is enabled by employing a functional, cell-type specific, scalable assay on an organoid model designed to represent the physiological cues of in vivo Paneth cell differentiation from adult intestinal stem cells. Further, we miniaturize and adapt the organoid culture system to enable automated plating and screening, thereby providing the ability to test thousands of samples. Strikingly, in our screen we identify inhibitors of the nuclear exporter Xpo1 modulate stem cell fate commitment by inducing a pan-epithelial stress response combined with an interruption of mitogen signaling in cycling intestinal progenitors, thereby significantly increasing the abundance of Paneth cells independent of known WNT and Notch differentiation cues. We extend our observation in vivo, demonstrating that oral administration of Xpo1 inhibitor KPT-330 at doses 1,000-fold lower than conventionally used in hematologic malignancies increases Paneth cell abundance. In total, we provide a framework to identify novel biological cues and therapeutic leads to rebalance intestinal stem cell differentiation and modulate epithelial tissue composition via high-throughput phenotypic screening in rationally-designed organoid model of differentiation.
We investigated SARS-CoV-2 potential tropism by surveying expression of viral entry-associated genes in single-cell RNA-sequencing data from multiple tissues from healthy human donors. We co-detected these transcripts in specific respiratory, corneal and intestinal epithelial cells, potentially explaining the high efficiency of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. These genes are co-expressed in nasal epithelial cells with genes involved in innate immunity, highlighting the cells’ potential role in initial viral infection, spread and clearance. The study offers a useful resource for further lines of inquiry with valuable clinical samples from COVID-19 patients and we provide our data in a comprehensive, open and user-friendly fashion at www.covid19cellatlas.org.
There is pressing urgency to understand the pathogenesis of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus clade 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which causes the disease COVID-19. SARS-CoV- 2 spike (S)-protein binds ACE2, and in concert with host proteases, principally TMPRSS2, promotes cellular entry. The cell subsets targeted by SARS-CoV-2 in host tissues, and the factors that regulate ACE2 expression, remain unknown. Here, we leverage human, non-human primate, and mouse single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets across health and disease to uncover putative targets of SARS-CoV-2 amongst tissue-resident cell subsets. We identify ACE2 and TMPRSS2 co-expressing cells within lung type II pneumocytes, ileal absorptive enterocytes, and nasal goblet secretory cells. Strikingly, we discover that ACE2 is a human interferon- stimulated gene (ISG) in vitro using airway epithelial cells, and extend our findings to in vivo viral infections. Our data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 could exploit species-specific interferon-driven upregulation of ACE2, a tissue-protective mediator during lung injury, to enhance infection.
The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, creates an urgent need for identifying molecular mechanisms that mediate viral entry, propagation, and tissue pathology. Cell membrane bound angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and associated proteases, transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) and Cathepsin L (CTSL), were previously identified as mediators of SARS-CoV2 cellular entry. Here, we assess the cell type-specific RNA expression of ACE2, TMPRSS2, and CTSL through an integrated analysis of 107 single-cell and single-nucleus RNA-Seq studies, including 22 lung and airways datasets (16 unpublished), and 85 datasets from other diverse organs. Joint expression of ACE2 and the accessory proteases identifies specific subsets of respiratory epithelial cells as putative targets of viral infection in the nasal passages, airways, and alveoli. Cells that co-express ACE2 and proteases are also identified in cells from other organs, some of which have been associated with COVID-19 transmission or pathology, including gut enterocytes, corneal epithelial cells, cardiomyocytes, heart pericytes, olfactory sustentacular cells, and renal epithelial cells. Performing the first meta- analyses of scRNA-seq studies, we analyzed 1,176,683 cells from 282 nasal, airway, and lung parenchyma samples from 164 donors spanning fetal, childhood, adult, and elderly age groups, associate increased levels of ACE2, TMPRSS2, and CTSL in specific cell types with increasing age, male gender, and smoking, all of which are epidemiologically linked to COVID-19 susceptibility and outcomes. Notably, there was a particularly low expression of ACE2 in the few young pediatric samples in the analysis. Further analysis reveals a gene expression program shared by ACE2+TMPRSS2+ cells in nasal, lung and gut tissues, including genes that may mediate viral entry, subtend key immune functions, and mediate epithelial-macrophage cross- talk. Amongst these are IL6, its receptor and co-receptor, IL1R, TNF response pathways, and complement genes. Cell type specificity in the lung and airways and smoking effects were conserved in mice. Our analyses suggest that differences in the cell type-specific expression of mediators of SARS-CoV-2 viral entry may be responsible for aspects of COVID-19 epidemiology and clinical course, and point to putative molecular pathways involved in disease susceptibility and pathogenesis.
Influenza virus infections are major causes of morbidity and mortality. Research using cultured cells, bulk tissue, and animal models cannot fully capture human disease dynamics. Many aspects of virus-host interactions in a natural setting remain unclear, including the specific cell types that are infected and how they and neighboring bystander cells contribute to the overall antiviral response. To address these questions, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) on cells from freshly collected nasal washes from healthy human donors and donors diagnosed with acute influenza during the 2017-18 season. We describe a previously uncharacterized goblet cell population, specific to infected individuals, with high expression of MHC class II genes. Furthermore, leveraging scRNA-Seq reads, we obtained deep viral genome coverage and developed a model to rigorously identify infected cells that detected influenza infection in all epithelial cell types and even some immune cells. Our data revealed that each donor was infected by a unique influenza variant and that each variant was separated by at least one unique non-synonymous difference. Our results demonstrate the power of massively-parallel scRNA-Seq to study viral variation, as well as host and viral transcriptional activity during human infection.
Crucial transitions in cancer—including tumor initiation, local expansion, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance—involve complex interactions between cells within the dynamic tumor ecosystem. Transformative single-cell genomics technologies and spatial multiplex in situ methods now provide an opportunity to interrogate this complexity at unprecedented resolution. The Human Tumor Atlas Network (HTAN), part of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Moonshot Initiative, will establish a clinical, experimental, computational, and organizational framework to generate informative and accessible three-dimensional atlases of cancer transitions for a diverse set of tumor types. This effort complements both ongoing efforts to map healthy organs and previous large-scale cancer genomics approaches focused on bulk sequencing at a single point in time. Generating single-cell, multiparametric, longitudinal atlases and integrating them with clinical outcomes should help identify novel predictive biomarkers and features as well as therapeutically relevant cell types, cell states, and cellular interactions across transitions. The resulting tumor atlases should have a profound impact on our understanding of cancer biology and have the potential to improve cancer detection, prevention, and therapeutic discovery for better precision-medicine treatments of cancer patients and those at risk for cancer.
The scale and capabilities of single-cell RNA-sequencing methods have expanded rapidly in recent years, enabling major dis- coveries and large-scale cell mapping efforts. However, these methods have not been systematically and comprehensively benchmarked. Here, we directly compare seven methods for single-cell and/or single-nucleus profiling—selecting representa- tive methods based on their usage and our expertise and resources to prepare libraries—including two low-throughput and five high-throughput methods. We tested the methods on three types of samples: cell lines, peripheral blood mononuclear cells and brain tissue, generating 36 libraries in six separate experiments in a single center. To directly compare the methods and avoid processing differences introduced by the existing pipelines, we developed scumi, a flexible computational pipeline that can be used with any single-cell RNA-sequencing method. We evaluated the methods for both basic performance, such as the structure and alignment of reads, sensitivity and extent of multiplets, and for their ability to recover known biological information in the samples.
Cellular immunity is critical for controlling intracellular pathogens, but individual cellular dynamics and cell–cell cooperativity in evolving human immune responses remain poorly understood. Single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) represents a powerful tool for dissecting complex multicellular behaviors in health and disease and nominating testable therapeutic targets. Its application to longitudinal samples could afford an opportunity to uncover cellular factors associated with the evolution of disease progression without potentially confounding inter-individual variability. Here, we present an experimental and computational methodology that uses scRNA-seq to characterize dynamic cellular programs and their molecular drivers, and apply it to HIV infection. By performing scRNA-seq on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from four untreated individuals before and longitudinally during acute infection, we were powered within each to discover gene response modules that vary by time and cell subset. Beyond previously unappreciated individual- and cell-type-specific interferon-stimulated gene upregulation, we describe temporally aligned gene expression responses obscured in bulk analyses, including those involved in proinflammatory T cell differentiation, prolonged monocyte major histocompatibility complex II upregulation and persistent natural killer (NK) cell cytolytic killing. We further identify response features arising in the first weeks of infection, for example proliferating natural killer cells, which potentially may associate with future viral control. Overall, our approach provides a unified framework for characterizing multiple dynamic cellular responses and their coordination.
There is pressing urgency to better understand the pathogenesis of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (CoV) clade SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2, like SARS-CoV, utilizes ACE2 to bind host cells. While initial SARS- CoV-2 cell entry and infection depend on ACE2 in concert with the protease TMPRSS2 for spike (S) protein activation, the specific cell subsets targeted by SARS-CoV-2 in host tissues, and the factors that regulate ACE2 expression, remain unknown. Here, we leverage human and non- human primate (NHP) single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets to uncover the tissue- resident cell subsets that may serve as the cellular targets of SARS-CoV-2. We identify ACE2 and TMPRSS2 co-expressing cells within type II pneumocytes in NHP lung, absorptive enterocytes in human and NHP terminal ileum, and human nasal goblet secretory cells. Strikingly, we discover, and extensively corroborate using publicly available data sets, that ACE2 is an interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) in human epithelial cells. We further validate this finding in primary upper airway human respiratory epithelial cells. Thus, SARS-CoV-2 may exploit IFN- driven upregulation of ACE2, a key tissue-protective mediator during lung injury, to enhance infection.
In light of the global effort to better understand the new SARS-CoV-2 virus, we and other researchers from the HCA Lung Biological Network and beyond have begun an initiative to investigate datasets from relevant tissues profiled as part of other ongoing studies. These studies represent, for example, large efforts to characterize HIV, Mtb, and influenza infection and allergy in primary human and non-human primate samples. This page serves as a guide to viewing our data interactively on and downloading datasets from our single-cell portal, the Alexandria Project. Alternatively, bulk downloading of our data is available here. For more on research initiatives in COVID-19 being undertaken by the HCA, and the HCA Lung Biological Network in particular, please visit the HCA website here.
We investigated two genes whose protein products are central to the cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2: ACE2 and TMPRSS2. Consistent with previous studies, we found that the gene encoding ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 entry receptor, is expressed on a subset of lung epithelial cells, type 2 pneumocytes, and a subset of ileal epithelial cells, absorptive enterocytes, across several datasets. The protease TMPRSS2 primes the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and is also important for viral entry. Because of this, we identified cells which co-express ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in our datasets, and investigated additional genes enriched within ACE2 and TMPRSS2 co-expressing cells. As we believe this data may prove useful to other researchers investigating similar questions, we have made our datasets public through the interactive Alexandria Project. Here, you can view our annotations of these datasets and investigate which other genes are highly expressed in these cell subsets of interest.
NB None of the datasets presented here were designed to answer specific questions about COVID-19. Additional studies will be required across larger, appropriately structured cohorts. Further, we provide a note of caution when interpreting scRNA-seq data for low abundance transcripts like ACE2 and TMPRSS2 as detection inefficiencies and/or sequencing depth may result in an underestimation of the actual frequencies of ACE2+ or ACE2+/TMPRSS2+ cells in tissues. Moreover, the protein levels of each may differ from their mRNA abundances. We present each data set separately, as each study differed by method of tissue processing and collection protocols, each of which can influence the frequency of recovered cell subsets.
Our pre-print “SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 is an interferon-stimulated gene in human airway epithelial cells and is enriched in specific cell subsets across tissues” can be found here, and the abstract is reproduced below.
There is pressing urgency to better understand the pathogenesis of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (CoV) clade SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2, like SARS-CoV, utilizes ACE2 to bind host cells. While initial SARS-CoV-2 cell entry and infection depend on ACE2 in concert with the protease TMPRSS2 for spike (S) protein activation, the specific cell subsets targeted by SARS-CoV-2 in host tissues, and the factors that regulate ACE2 expression, remain unknown. Here, we leverage human and non-human primate (NHP) single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets to uncover the cell subsets that may serve as cellular targets of SARS-CoV-2. We identify ACE2/TMPRSS2 co-expressing cells within type II pneumocytes, absorptive enterocytes, and nasal goblet secretory cells. Strikingly, we discover that ACE2 is an interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) in human barrier tissue epithelial cells. Thus, SARS-CoV-2 may exploit IFN-driven upregulation of ACE2, a key tissue-protective mediator during lung injury, to enhance infection.
Atlas of ACE2 expression in healthy non-human primate lung and ileum
In this study, we collected cells from various tissues in healthy and SHIV-infected non-human primates using Seq-Well v1. Here we highlight the lung and ileum and show that ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are co-expressed most frequently in type II pneumocytes in the lung and absorptive enterocytes in the ileum.
To visualize these cells in the Alexandria Project, visit this study: Atlas of healthy non-human primate lung and ileum ACE2+ cells
This project contains two UMAP visualizations (one for lung cells and one for ileum cells): toggle between them by clicking on the ‘Explore’ tab, select ‘View Options’ in the top right hand corner, and switch between lung and ileum under the ‘Load Cluster’ dropdown.
For each of the lung and ileum cell UMAPs, we provide subsets of these visualizations which contain only the cell types enriched for double positive cells. By selecting the ‘Load cluster’ options called ‘Lung Epithelial Cells’ or ‘Ileum Absorptive Enterocytes’, you will be able to view gene expression differences between double positive cells and other cells within those cell types. In the lung epithelial cells visualization, the following additional annotations are available under the ‘Select Annotation’ dropdown:
- ACE2+ – cells expressing ACE2
- TMPRSS2+ – cells expressing TMPRSS2
- ACE2_TMPRSS2_double_positive – cells expressing both genes
- celltype_double_positive – the cell type column and double positive column combined so genes that are differentially expressed between only one cell type may be viewed
- celltype_ACE2+ – same as above for ACE2 expression
After selecting one of these annotations, you can then search for a gene of interest in the ‘Search Genes’ box in the left corner to view the expression of that gene as a violin plot split by the annotation you select. For example, to reproduce Figure 1D in the manuscript, you would select annotation “ACE2_TMPRSS2_double_positive” and search for gene ‘IFNGR2’ in the ‘Search Genes’ box.
The same options are available for the ileal absorptive enterocytes visualization except that the cell type is combined with the double positive/ACE2 column since this subset only includes one cell type.
Full expression matrices (and therefore gene expression values visible when using the ‘Search Genes’ box) are available only for epithelial cell types as this data is derived from a pre-publication study.
Atlas of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in human ileum
In this study, samples from human ileum were collected, processed, and run on 10x 3′ v2 show ACE2 and TMPRSS2 co-expression in absorptive enterocytes.
To visualize these cells in the Alexandria Portal, visit this study: ACE2 and TMPRSS2 most enriched within GSTA1+MGST3+ absorptive enterocytes in context of non-inflamed terminal ileum
Two tSNE visualizations are available for this study, one of all cells in the ileum samples “non-inflammed-tsne” and one of just the epithelial cells in the samples “non-inflammed-epth-tsne”. To toggle between these, select the “Explore” tab under the study title, then select ‘View options’ from the upper right corner of the plot and choose the visualization of interest in the ‘Load cluster’ dropdown.
Full expression matrices (and therefore gene expression values visible when using the ‘search genes’ box) are available only for the epithelial cell types as this data is derived from a pre-publication study.
Atlas of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression in human HIV- and TB-infected lung
In this study, samples from lung surgeries were run with Seq-Well S^3 and contain a variety of immune and epithelial cell types. We found the majority of ACE2 and TPRSS2 double positive cells in type II pneumocyte cells.
To view these cells in the Alexandria Project, visit this study: Human lung HIV-TB co-infection ACE2+ cells
To visualize the double positive cells in these samples, click the ‘Explore’ tab, then select ‘View Options’ in the top right corner of the plot and choose ‘ACE2_TMPRSS2_double_positive’ under the ‘Select Annotation’ dropdown menu.
Full expression matrices (and therefore gene expression values visible when using the ‘search genes’ box) are available only for epithelial cell types as this data is derived from a pre-publication study.
A subset of ACE2+ secretory cells in human nasal mucosa
In this study, we find a subset of secretory cells which co-express ACE2 and TMPRSS2.
To visualize these cells on the Alexandria Project, visit this study: Allergic inflammatory memory in human respiratory epithelial progenitor cells
To view the tSNE of epithelial cells, select the ‘Explore’ tab, select ‘View Options’ in the right hand corner of the plot and choose ‘Epithelial cells’ in the ‘Load Cluster’ dropdown. To view the cell type annotations in the first panel of the above plot choose ‘subset’ in the ‘Select Annotation’ dropdown menu. To view the ACE2/TMPRSS2 double positive cells, select ‘ACE2_TMPRSS2’ from the ‘Select annotation dropdown menu, and to view the cluster subsets from the third panel of this plot, select ‘res_0_8’ from the ‘Select Annotation Dropdown Menu’.
ACE2 and TPRSS2 co-expressing cells found in non-human primate granulomas and adjacent uninvolved lung tissue
In this study, we collected lung tissue from non-human primates infected with mTB. These tissues come from both mTB granulomas and adjacent uninvolved lung in the same monkey.
These cells, profiled using Seq-Well S^3, can be investigated interactively in the Alexandria Project: Epithelial cells in NHP TB granuloma and uninvolved lung
To view the data colored by granuloma and uninvolved lung choose the “Granuloma” annotation accessible by clicking “View Options” in the top right-hand corner and selecting from the “Select Annotation” dropdown menu.
Full expression matrices (and therefore gene expression values visible when using the ‘Search Genes’ box) are available only for relevant cell types as this data is derived from a pre-publication study.
Comparison of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression in human duodenal and ileal tissue and organoid-derived epithelial cells
In this study, samples from adult human duodenum and ileum were collected and split for primary tissue single-cell RNA-seq and organoid culture under several conditions and profiled with Seq-Well S^3. Organoids were cultured and passaged every 6-8 days in Matrigel domes with established media conditions meant to recapitulate the broad diversity of in vivo epithelial cell types (Fujii, M., et al., Cell Stem Cell. 2018). Organoid culture media contained recombinant Noggin, Rspondin-3, FGF2, IGF1, afamin-Wnt3A, in addition to Gastrin and TGF-b inhibitor A83-01 with and without recombinant EGF (E/NR3+F2I1Gi+Af-W3+A83). Cells co-expressing ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were identified principally within enterocyte clusters of both tissues and organoids.
Visualize these samples interactively and read more about this study on the Alexandria Project: Comparison of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression in human duodenal and ileal tissue and organoid-derived epithelial cells
This project contains two UMAP visualizations (one for organoid cells and one for primary tissue cells): toggle between them by clicking on the ‘Explore’ tab, select ‘View Options’ in the top right hand corner, and switch between tissue and organoid under the ‘Load Cluster’ dropdown.
To visualize cells which co-express ACE2 and TMPRSS2, select the ‘ACE2_TMPRSS2’ option under the ‘Select Annotation’ dropdown. You can then search for a gene of interest in the ‘Search Genes’ box in the left corner to view the expression of that gene as a violin plot split by the annotation you select.
Full expression matrices (and therefore gene expression values visible when using the ‘Search Genes’ box) are available only for enterocyte cell types as this data is derived from a pre-publication study. Expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are available for all cells.
Interferon regulation of ACE2 in human and murine basal cells
Analysis of these datasets and others lead to the hypothesis that expression of the ACE2 receptor may be upregulated by interferon. To further interrogate this hypothesis, we cultured basal cells from two primary human donors, one human basal cell line, and one mouse trachea and stimulated them with IL4, IL17a, IFNgamma, IFNαlpha, IFNbeta for 12 hours overnight. We performed bulk RNA sequencing and differential expression to show a dose dependent upregulation of canonical ISGs (interferon signaling genes). Specifically, we see that ACE2 is most significantly unregulated following IFN alpha stimulation in primary human basal cells, diminished in the BEAS-2B cell line and not seen in mouse cells.
To visualize these samples, the gene expression data may be viewed interactively in the Alexandria Project: Interferon regulation of ACE2 in human and murine basal cells
Under the ‘Explore’ tab, use the ‘Search genes’ field in the top left corner to visualize log-normalized gene expression. To visualize expression in each sample, select ‘View Options’ in the top left corner of the plot and choose the sample of interest under ‘Load cluster’. The ‘Stim_Dose’ annotation refers to the dose of each stimulation condition applied to that sample.
Data for all samples in this study can be dowloaded under the ‘Download’ tab.
Murine nasal mucosa after intranasal interferon exposure
We test the impact of IFNalpha stimulation in vivo by treating two mice intranasally with 200 ng of IFNalpha and two with saline. After 12 hours, the nasal mucosa of the respiratory and olfactory epithelia and underlying lamina propria were isolated and prepared for sequencing with Seq-Well S^3.
These cells may be viewed interactively in the Alexandria Project: Murine nasal mucosa after intranasal interferon exposure
Data for all samples in this study can be dowloaded under the ‘Download’ tab.
Alexandria Project Details
We thank the Broad Institute Single Cell Portal team for creating the platform that allows Alexandria to exist and for their working tirelessly to help us share our datasets for others to access.
Whether cultured in vitro or part of a complex tissue in vivo, a cell’s phenotype and function are significantly influenced by dynamic interactions with its microenvironment. To explicitly examine how a cell’s spatiotemporal activity impacts its behavior, we developed and validated a strategy termed SPACECAT – Spatially PhotoActivatable Color Encoded Cell Address Tags – to annotate, track, and isolate specific cells in a non-destructive, viability-preserving manner. In SPACECAT, a biological sample is immersed in a photocaged fluorescent molecule, and cells within a location of interest are labeled for further study by uncaging that molecule with user-patterned near-UV light. SPACECAT offers high spatial precision and temporal stability across diverse cell and tissue types, and is compatible with common downstream assays, including flow cytometry and single-cell RNA-Seq. Illustratively, we leveraged this approach in patient-derived intestinal organoids, a spatially complex system less amenable to genetic manipulations, to select for crypt-like regions enriched in stem-like and actively mitotic cells. Moreover, we demonstrate its applicability and utility on ex vivo tissue sections from four healthy organs and an autochthonous lung tumor model, uncovering spatially-biased gene expression patterns among immune cell subsets and identifying rare myeloid phenotypes enriched around tumor/healthy border regions. In sum, our method provides a minimally invasive and broadly applicable approach to link cellular spatiotemporal features and/or behavioral phenotypes with diverse downstream assays, enabling fundamental insights into the connections between tissue microenvironments and biological (dys)function.
Memories of previous immune events enable barrier tissues to rapidly recall distinct environmental exposures. To effectively inform future responses, these past experiences can be stored in cell types that are long-term residents or essential constituents of tissues. There is an emerging understanding that, in addition to antigen-specific immune cells, diverse haematopoietic, stromal, parenchymal and neuronal cell types can store inflammatory memory. Here, we explore the impact of previous immune activity on various cell lineages with the goal of presenting a unified view of inflammatory memory to environmental exposures (such as allergens, antigens, noxious agents and microorganisms) at barrier tissues. We propose that inflammatory memory is distributed across diverse cell types and stored through shifts in cell states, and we provide a framework to guide future experiments. This distribution and storage may promote adaptation or maladaptation in homeostatic, maintenance and disease settings — especially if the distribution of memory favours cellular cooperation during storage or recall.