Identification of grade and origin specific cell populations in serous epithelial ovarian cancer by single cell RNA-seq

PLoS One. 2018 Nov 1;13(11):e0206785. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206785. eCollection 2018.


Here we investigated different cell populations within ovarian cancer using single-cell RNA seq: fourteen samples from nine patients with differing grades (high grade, low grade and benign) as well as different origin sites (primary and metastatic tumor site, ovarian in origin and fallopian in origin). We were able to identify sixteen distinct cell populations with specific cells correlated to high grade tumors, low grade tumors, benign and one population unique to a patient with a breast cancer relapse. Furthermore the proportion of these populations changes from primary to metastatic in a shift from mainly epithelial cells to leukocytes with few cancer epithelial cells in the metastases. Differential gene expression shows myeloid lineage cells are the primary cell group expressing soluble factors in primary samples while fibroblasts do so in metastatic samples. The leukocytes that were captured did not seem to be suppressed through known pro-tumor cytokines from any of the cell populations. Single cell RNA-seq is necessary to de-tangle cellular heterogeneity for better understanding of ovarian cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • RNA

Grants and funding

This study was funded by the following private funders to The Feinstein Institute: Linda and Dr. Myron Teitelbaum Foundation, Monter Cancer Center at Northwell Health Cancer Institute, Moms Who Kick, Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer, Henry Gabbay, Stand Up 2 Cancer, and the John L. Lovecchio, MD Gynecologic Oncology Research Fund. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.