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Single-cell transcriptomic reconstruction reveals cell cycle and multi-lineage differentiation defects in Bcl11a-deficient hematopoietic stem cells

Tsang, J.C., Yu, Y., Burke, S. et al..

Background
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are a rare cell type with the ability of long-term self-renewal and multipotency to reconstitute all blood lineages. HSCs are typically purified from the bone marrow using cell surface markers. Recent studies have identified significant cellular heterogeneities in the HSC compartment with subsets of HSCs displaying lineage bias. We previously discovered that the transcription factor Bcl11a has critical functions in the lymphoid development of the HSC compartment.

Results
In this report, we employ single-cell transcriptomic analysis to dissect the molecular heterogeneities in HSCs. We profile the transcriptomes of 180 highly purified HSCs (Bcl11a+/+ and Bcl11a−/−). Detailed analysis of the RNA-seq data identifies cell cycle activity as the major source of transcriptomic variation in the HSC compartment, which allows reconstruction of HSC cell cycle progression in silico. Single-cell RNA-seq profiling of Bcl11a−/− HSCs reveals abnormal proliferative phenotypes. Analysis of lineage gene expression suggests that the Bcl11a−/− HSCs are constituted of two distinct myeloerythroid-restricted subpopulations. Remarkably, similar myeloid-restricted cells could also be detected in the wild-type HSC compartment, suggesting selective elimination of lymphoid-competent HSCs after Bcl11a deletion. These defects are experimentally validated in serial transplantation experiments where Bcl11a−/− HSCs are myeloerythroid-restricted and defective in self-renewal.

Conclusions
Our study demonstrates the power of single-cell transcriptomics in dissecting cellular process and lineage heterogeneities in stem cell compartments, and further reveals the molecular and cellular defects in the Bcl11a-deficient HSC compartment.

Citation

Tsang, J.C., Yu, Y., Burke, S. et al.. "Single-cell transcriptomic reconstruction reveals cell cycle and multi-lineage differentiation defects in Bcl11a-deficient hematopoietic stem cells" Genome Biology (2015): 178