Single-Cell Characterization of Malignant Phenotypes and Developmental Trajectories of Adrenal Neuroblastoma

Cancer Cell. 2020 Sep 15;S1535-6108(20)30425-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2020.08.014. Online ahead of print.


Neuroblastoma (NB), which is a subtype of neural-crest-derived malignancy, is the most common extracranial solid tumor occurring in childhood. Despite extensive research, the underlying developmental origin of NB remains unclear. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we generate transcriptomes of adrenal NB from 160,910 cells of 16 patients and transcriptomes of putative developmental cells of origin of NB from 12,103 cells of early human embryos and fetal adrenal glands at relatively late development stages. We find that most adrenal NB tumor cells transcriptionally mirror noradrenergic chromaffin cells. Malignant states also recapitulate the proliferation/differentiation status of chromaffin cells in the process of normal development. Our findings provide insight into developmental trajectories and cellular states underlying human initiation and progression of NB.

Keywords: Schwann cell precursors; cell differentiation; cell proliferation; cells of origin; chromaffin cells; neural crest cells; neuroblastoma; pediatric cancer; single-cell RNA sequencing; tumor heterogeneity.