Molecular heterogeneity unravelled by single-cell transcriptomics in patients with essential thrombocythaemia

Br J Haematol. 2020 Mar;188(5):707-722. doi: 10.1111/bjh.16225. Epub 2019 Oct 14.


Significant phenotypic heterogeneity exists in patients with all subtypes of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), including essential thrombocythaemia (ET). Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) holds the promise of unravelling the biology of MPN at an unprecedented level of resolution. Herein we employed this approach to dissect the transcriptomes in the CD34+ cells from the peripheral blood of seven previously untreated ET patients and one healthy adult. The mutational profiles in these patients were as follows: JAK2 V617F in two, CALR in three (one type I and two type II) and triple-negative (TN) in two. Our results reveal substantial heterogeneity within this enrolled cohort of patients. Activation of JAK/STAT signalling was recognized in discrepant progenitor lineages among different samples. Significantly disparate molecular profiling was identified in the comparison between ET patients and the control, between patients with different driver mutations (JAK2 V617F and CALR exon 9 indel), and even between patients harbouring the same driver. Intra-individual clonal diversity was also found in the CD34+ progenitor population of a patient, possibly indicating the presence of multiple clones in this case. Estimation of subpopulation size based on cellular immunophenotyping suggested differentiation bias in all analysed samples. Furthermore, combining the transcriptomic information with data from targeted sequencing enabled us to unravel key somatic mutations that are molecularly relevant. To conclude, we demonstrated that scRNA-Seq extended our knowledge of clonal diversity and inter-individual heterogeneity in patients with ET. The obtained information could potentially leapfrog our efforts in the elucidation of the pathogenesis of the disease.

Keywords: essential thrombocythaemia; myeloproliferative neoplasms; single-cell RNA sequencing; somatic mutations; transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Calreticulin* / genetics
  • Calreticulin* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Janus Kinase 2* / genetics
  • Janus Kinase 2* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation, Missense
  • RNA-Seq*
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Thrombocythemia, Essential* / blood
  • Thrombocythemia, Essential* / genetics
  • Transcriptome*


  • CALR protein, human
  • Calreticulin
  • JAK2 protein, human
  • Janus Kinase 2