A human cell atlas of fetal chromatin accessibility

Science. 2020 Nov 13;370(6518):eaba7612. doi: 10.1126/science.aba7612.


The chromatin landscape underlying the specification of human cell types is of fundamental interest. We generated human cell atlases of chromatin accessibility and gene expression in fetal tissues. For chromatin accessibility, we devised a three-level combinatorial indexing assay and applied it to 53 samples representing 15 organs, profiling ~800,000 single cells. We leveraged cell types defined by gene expression to annotate these data and cataloged hundreds of thousands of candidate regulatory elements that exhibit cell type-specific chromatin accessibility. We investigated the properties of lineage-specific transcription factors (such as POU2F1 in neurons), organ-specific specializations of broadly distributed cell types (such as blood and endothelial), and cell type-specific enrichments of complex trait heritability. These data represent a rich resource for the exploration of in vivo human gene regulation in diverse tissues and cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atlases as Topic
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Fetus / cytology*
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • Transcription Factors