Tosti L et al. 2021 Gastroentorology
We created the first comprehensive atlas of human pancreas cells including epithelial and nonepithelial constituents, and uncovered 3 distinct acinar cell types, with possible implications for homeostatic and inflammatory processes of the pancreas. The comparison with neonatal single-nucleus sequencing data showed a different cellular composition of the endocrine tissue, highlighting the tissue dynamics occurring during development. By applying spatial cartography, involving cell proximity mapping through in situ sequencing, we found evidence of specific cell type neighborhoods, dynamic topographies in the endocrine and exocrine pancreas, and principles of morphologic organization of the organ. Furthermore, similar analyses in chronic pancreatitis biopsy samples showed the presence of acinar-REG+ cells, a reciprocal association between macrophages and activated stellate cells, and a new potential role of tuft cells in this disease. Our human pancreas cell atlas can be interrogated to understand pancreatic cell biology and provides a crucial reference set for comparisons with diseased tissue samples to map the cellular foundations of pancreatic diseases.
Krieger TG, Le Blanc S, Jabs J et al. 2021 Nature Communications
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is projected to be the second leading cause of cancer mortality by 2030. Bulk transcriptomic analyses have distinguished ‘classical’ from ‘basal-like’ tumors with more aggressive clinical behavior. We derive PDAC organoids from 18 primary tumors and two matched liver metastases, and show that ‘classical’ and ‘basal-like’ cells coexist in individual organoids. By single-cell transcriptome analysis of PDAC organoids and primary PDAC, we identify distinct tumor cell states shared across patients, including a cycling progenitor cell state and a differentiated secretory state. Cell states are connected by a differentiation hierarchy, with ‘classical’ cells concentrated at the endpoint. In an imaging-based drug screen, expression of ‘classical’ subtype genes correlates with better drug response. Our results thus uncover a functional hierarchy of PDAC cell states linked to transcriptional tumor subtypes, and support the use of PDAC organoids as a clinically relevant model for in vitro studies of tumor heterogeneity.
Lukassen S, Chua RL, Trefzer T, Kahn NC, Schneider MA et al. 2020 EMBOJ
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic affecting the human respiratory system severely challenges public health and urgently demands for increasing our understanding of COVID-19 pathogenesis, especially host factors facilitating virus infection and replication. SARS-CoV-2 was reported to enter cells via binding to ACE2, followed by its priming by TMPRSS2. Here, we investigate ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression levels and their distribution across cell types in lung tissue (twelve donors, 39,778 cells) and in cells derived from subsegmental bronchial branches (four donors, 17,521 cells) by single nuclei and single cell RNA sequencing, respectively. While TMPRSS2 is strongly expressed in both tissues, in the subsegmental bronchial branches ACE2 is predominantly expressed in a transient secretory cell type. Interestingly, these transiently differentiating cells show an enrichment for pathways related to RHO GTPase function and viral processes suggesting increased vulnerability for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our data provide a rich resource for future investigations of COVID-19 infection and pathogenesis.
Chua RL, Lukassen S, Trump S, Hennig BP, Wendisch D et al. 2020
To investigate the immune response and mechanisms associated with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we performed single-cell RNA sequencing on nasopharyngeal and bronchial samples from 19 clinically well-characterized patients with moderate or critical disease and from five healthy controls. We identified airway epithelial cell types and states vulnerable to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. In patients with COVID-19, epithelial cells showed an average three-fold increase in expression of the SARS-CoV-2 entry receptor ACE2, which correlated with interferon signals by immune cells. Compared to moderate cases, critical cases exhibited stronger interactions between epithelial and immune cells, as indicated by ligand–receptor expression profiles, and activated immune cells, including inflammatory macrophages expressing CCL2, CCL3, CCL20, CXCL1, CXCL3, CXCL10, IL8, IL1B and TNF. The transcriptional differences in critical cases compared to moderate cases likely contribute to clinical observations of heightened inflammatory tissue damage, lung injury and respiratory failure. Our data suggest that pharmacologic inhibition of the CCR1 and/or CCR5 pathways might suppress immune hyperactivation in critical COVID-19.
Trefzer T, Schneider MA, et al. 2021 bioRXiv
Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death worldwide despite declining smoking prevalence in industrialised countries. Although lung cancer is highly associated with smoking status, a significant proportion of lung cancer cases develop in patients who never smoked, with an observable bias towards female never smokers. A better understanding of lung cancer heterogeneity and immune system involvement during tumour evolution and progression in never smokers is therefore highly warranted. We employed single nucleus transcriptomics of surgical lung adenocarcinoma (LADC) and normal lung tissue samples from patients with or without smoking history. Immune cells as well as fibroblasts and endothelial cells respond to tobacco smoke exposure by inducing a highly inflammatory state in normal lung tissue. In the presence of LADC, we identified differentially expressed transcriptional programmes in macrophages and cancer-associated fibroblasts, providing insight into how the niche favours tumour progression. Within tumours, we distinguished eight subpopulations of neoplastic cells in female smokers and never smokers. Through pseudotemporal ordering, we inferred a trajectory towards two differentiated tumour cell states implicated in cancer progression and invasiveness. A proliferating cell population sustaining tumour growth exhibits differential immune modulating signatures in both patient groups. Our results resolve cellular heterogeneity and immune interactions in LADC, with a special emphasis on female never smokers and implications for the design of therapeutic approaches.