Single-cell transcriptomes reveal characteristic features of human pancreatic islet cell types

EMBO Rep. 2016 Feb;17(2):178-87. doi: 10.15252/embr.201540946. Epub 2015 Dec 21.


Pancreatic islets of Langerhans contain several specialized endocrine cell types, which are commonly identified by the expression of single marker genes. However, the established marker genes cannot capture the complete spectrum of cellular heterogeneity in human pancreatic islets, and existing bulk transcriptome datasets provide averages across several cell populations. To dissect the cellular composition of the human pancreatic islet and to establish transcriptomes for all major cell types, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing on 70 cells sorted from human primary tissue. We used this dataset to validate previously described marker genes at the single-cell level and to identify specifically expressed transcription factors for all islet cell subtypes. All data are available for browsing and download, thus establishing a useful resource of single-cell expression profiles for endocrine cells in human pancreatic islets.

Keywords: alpha cells; beta cells; diabetes; marker genes; single‐cell RNA‐seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Profiling / standards
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / classification
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods
  • Single-Cell Analysis / standards
  • Transcriptome*


  • Genetic Markers