Single-cell RNA sequencing identifies novel cell types in Drosophila blood

J Genet Genomics. 2020 Apr 20;47(4):175-186. doi: 10.1016/j.jgg.2020.02.004. Epub 2020 Mar 9.


Drosophila has been extensively used to model the human blood-immune system, as both systems share many developmental and immune response mechanisms. However, while many human blood cell types have been identified, only three were found in flies: plasmatocytes, crystal cells and lamellocytes. To better understand the complexity of fly blood system, we used single-cell RNA sequencing technology to generate comprehensive gene expression profiles for Drosophila circulating blood cells. In addition to the known cell types, we identified two new Drosophila blood cell types: thanacytes and primocytes. Thanacytes, which express many stimulus response genes, are involved in distinct responses to different types of bacteria. Primocytes, which express cell fate commitment and signaling genes, appear to be involved in keeping stem cells in the circulating blood. Furthermore, our data revealed four novel plasmatocyte subtypes (Ppn+, CAH7+, Lsp+ and reservoir plasmatocytes), each with unique molecular identities and distinct predicted functions. We also identified cross-species markers from Drosophila hemocytes to human blood cells. Our analysis unveiled a more complex Drosophila blood system and broadened the scope of using Drosophila to model human blood system in development and disease.

Keywords: Blood; Drosophila; Plasmatocyte; Primocyte; Single-cell RNA-seq; Thanacyte.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Lineage / genetics*
  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / immunology
  • Hemocytes / cytology*
  • Hemocytes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity / genetics*
  • Immunity / immunology
  • Larva / cytology
  • Larva / immunology
  • RNA-Seq / methods
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Transcriptome / genetics