A molecular atlas of cell types and zonation in the brain vasculature

Nature. 2018 Feb 22;554(7693):475-480. doi: 10.1038/nature25739. Epub 2018 Feb 14.


Cerebrovascular disease is the third most common cause of death in developed countries, but our understanding of the cells that compose the cerebral vasculature is limited. Here, using vascular single-cell transcriptomics, we provide molecular definitions for the principal types of blood vascular and vessel-associated cells in the adult mouse brain. We uncover the transcriptional basis of the gradual phenotypic change (zonation) along the arteriovenous axis and reveal unexpected cell type differences: a seamless continuum for endothelial cells versus a punctuated continuum for mural cells. We also provide insight into pericyte organotypicity and define a population of perivascular fibroblast-like cells that are present on all vessel types except capillaries. Our work illustrates the power of single-cell transcriptomics to decode the higher organizational principles of a tissue and may provide the initial chapter in a molecular encyclopaedia of the mammalian vasculature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteries / cytology
  • Arterioles / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / cytology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Capillaries / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / classification*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / classification
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / classification
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pericytes / classification
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome
  • Veins / cytology