Single cell RNA-sequencing identifies a metabolic aspect of apoptosis in Rbf mutant

Nat Commun. 2018 Nov 27;9(1):5024. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07540-z.


The function of Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor (pRB) is greatly influenced by the cellular context, therefore the consequences of pRB inactivation are cell-type-specific. Here we employ single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) to profile the impact of an Rbf mutation during Drosophila eye development. First, we build a catalogue of 11,500 wild type eye disc cells containing major known cell types. We find a transcriptional switch occurring in differentiating photoreceptors at the time of axonogenesis. Next, we map a cell landscape of Rbf mutant and identify a mutant-specific cell population that shows intracellular acidification due to increase in glycolytic activity. Genetic experiments demonstrate that such metabolic changes, restricted to this unique Rbf mutant population, sensitize cells to apoptosis and define the pattern of cell death in Rbf mutant eye disc. Thus, these results illustrate how scRNA-seq can be applied to dissect mutant phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Eye / cytology
  • Larva / cytology
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neurogenesis
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / metabolism
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Rbf protein, Drosophila
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Transcription Factors