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Single-cell RNA-seq analysis maps the development of human fetal retina

By Yufeng Lu, Wenyang Yi, Qian Wu, Suijuan Zhong, Zhentao Zuo, Fangqi Zhao, Mei Zhang, Nicole Tsai, Yan Zhuo, Sheng He, Jun Zhang, Xin Duan, Xiaoqun Wang, Tian Xue

Posted 23 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/423830

Vision starts with image formation at the retina, which contains diverse neuronal cell types that extract, process, and relay visual information to higher order processing centers in the brain. Though there has been steady progress in defining retinal cell types, very little is known about retinal development in humans, which starts well before birth. In this study, we performed transcriptomic profiling of developing human fetal retina from gestational weeks 12 to 27 using single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) and used pseudotime analysis to reconstruct the developmental trajectories of retinogenesis. Our analysis reveals transcriptional programs driving differentiation down four different cell types and suggests that Müller glia (MG) can serve as embryonic progenitors in early retinal development. In addition, we also show that transcriptional differences separate retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) into distinct subtypes and use this information to reconstruct RPC developmental trajectories and cell fate. Our results support a hierarchical program of differentiation governing cell-type diversity in the developing human retina. In summary, our work details comprehensive molecular classification of retinal cells, reconstructs their relationships, and paves the way for future mechanistic studies on the impact of gene regulation upon human retinogenesis.

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