Redefining the heterogeneity of peripheral nerve cells in health and autoimmunity

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Apr 28;117(17):9466-9476. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1912139117. Epub 2020 Apr 15.


Peripheral nerves contain axons and their enwrapping glia cells named Schwann cells (SCs) that are either myelinating (mySCs) or nonmyelinating (nmSCs). Our understanding of other cells in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) remains limited. Here, we provide an unbiased single cell transcriptomic characterization of the nondiseased rodent PNS. We identified and independently confirmed markers of previously underappreciated nmSCs and nerve-associated fibroblasts. We also found and characterized two distinct populations of nerve-resident homeostatic myeloid cells that transcriptionally differed from central nervous system microglia. In a model of chronic autoimmune neuritis, homeostatic myeloid cells were outnumbered by infiltrating lymphocytes which modulated the local cell-cell interactome and induced a specific transcriptional response in glia cells. This response was partially shared between the peripheral and central nervous system glia, indicating common immunological features across different parts of the nervous system. Our study thus identifies subtypes and cell-type markers of PNS cells and a partially conserved autoimmunity module induced in glia cells.

Keywords: Schwann cell; peripheral nervous system; single cell RNA-seq; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Lineage
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / physiology
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / cytology*
  • Rats


  • Biomarkers