Single-cell transcriptome analysis reveals differential nutrient absorption functions in human intestine

J Exp Med. 2020 Feb 3;217(2):e20191130. doi: 10.1084/jem.20191130.


The intestine plays an important role in nutrient digestion and absorption, microbe defense, and hormone secretion. Although major cell types have been identified in the mouse intestinal epithelium, cell type-specific markers and functional assignments are largely unavailable for human intestine. Here, our single-cell RNA-seq analyses of 14,537 epithelial cells from human ileum, colon, and rectum reveal different nutrient absorption preferences in the small and large intestine, suggest the existence of Paneth-like cells in the large intestine, and identify potential new marker genes for human transient-amplifying cells and goblet cells. We have validated some of these insights by quantitative PCR, immunofluorescence, and functional analyses. Furthermore, we show both common and differential features of the cellular landscapes between the human and mouse ilea. Therefore, our data provide the basis for detailed characterization of human intestine cell constitution and functions, which would be helpful for a better understanding of human intestine disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Goblet Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ileum / cytology
  • Intestinal Absorption / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nutrients / metabolism*
  • Organoids
  • Paneth Cells / metabolism*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Transcriptome*


  • Biomarkers