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Single-nucleus RNA-seq identifies divergent populations of FSHD2 myotube nuclei

By Shan Jiang, Katherine Williams, Xiangduo Kong, Weihua Zeng, Malte Woestmann, Rabi Tawil, Kyoko Yokomori, Ali Mortazavi

Posted 27 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/478636 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008754)

FSHD is characterized by the misexpression of DUX4 in skeletal muscle. However, DUX4 is lowly expressed in patient samples and analysis of the consequences of DUX4 expression has largely relied on artificial overexpression. To better understand the native expression profile of DUX4 and its targets, we performed pooled RNA-seq differentiation time-course in FSHD2 patient-derived primary myoblasts and identified early- and late-induced sets of FSHD-associated genes. Using single-cell and single-nucleus RNA-seq on FSHD2 myoblasts and myotubes respectively, we captured DUX4 expression in single-nuclei and found that only some DUX4 targets are coexpressed. We identified two populations of FSHD myotube nuclei with distinct transcriptional profiles. One population is highly enriched with DUX4 and FSHD related genes, including the DUX4 paralog DUXA (FSHD-Hi). The other population has no expression of DUX4 and expresses low amounts of FSHD related genes (FSHD-Lo), but is marked by the expression of CYTL1 and CHI3L1. FSHD-Hi myotube nuclei upregulated a set of transcription factors (TFs) that may form a self-sustaining network of gene dysregulation, which perpetuates this disease after DUX4 is no longer expressed.

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