Single-cell transcriptome profiling of an adult human cell atlas of 15 major organs

Genome Biol. 2020 Dec 7;21(1):294. doi: 10.1186/s13059-020-02210-0.


Background: As core units of organ tissues, cells of various types play their harmonious rhythms to maintain the homeostasis of the human body. It is essential to identify the characteristics of cells in human organs and their regulatory networks for understanding the biological mechanisms related to health and disease. However, a systematic and comprehensive single-cell transcriptional profile across multiple organs of a normal human adult is missing.

Results: We perform single-cell transcriptomes of 84,363 cells derived from 15 tissue organs of one adult donor and generate an adult human cell atlas. The adult human cell atlas depicts 252 subtypes of cells, including major cell types such as T, B, myeloid, epithelial, and stromal cells, as well as novel COCH+ fibroblasts and FibSmo cells, each of which is distinguished by multiple marker genes and transcriptional profiles. These collectively contribute to the heterogeneity of major human organs. Moreover, T cell and B cell receptor repertoire comparisons and trajectory analyses reveal direct clonal sharing of T and B cells with various developmental states among different tissues. Furthermore, novel cell markers, transcription factors, and ligand-receptor pairs are identified with potential functional regulations in maintaining the homeostasis of human cells among tissues.

Conclusions: The adult human cell atlas reveals the inter- and intra-organ heterogeneity of cell characteristics and provides a useful resource in uncovering key events during the development of human diseases in the context of the heterogeneity of cells and organs.

Keywords: BCR; Human cell atlas; Single-cell RNA sequencing; TCR; Transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptome*


  • Genetic Markers
  • Transcription Factors