Single-cell mRNA profiling reveals changes in solute carrier expression and suggests a metabolic switch during zebrafish pronephros development

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2021 May 1;320(5):F826-F837. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00610.2020. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


Developing organisms need to adapt to environmental variations as well as to rapid changes in substrate availability and energy demands imposed by fast-growing tissues and organs. Little is known about the adjustments that kidneys undergo in response to these challenges. We performed single-cell RNA sequencing of zebrafish pronephric duct cells to understand how the developing kidney responds to changes in filtered substrates and intrinsic energy requirements. We found high levels of glucose transporters early in development and increased expression of monocarboxylate transporters at later times. This indicates that the zebrafish embryonic kidney displays a high glucose transporting capacity during early development, which is replaced by the ability to absorb monocarboxylates and amino acids at later stages. This change in transport capacity was accompanied by the upregulation of mitochondrial carriers, indicating a switch to increased oxidative phosphorylation to meet the increasing energy demand of a developing kidney.NEW & NOTEWORTHY The zebrafish embryonic kidney has high levels of glucose transporters during early development, which are replaced by monocarboxylate and amino acid transporters later on. Inhibition of Na+-glucose cotransporter-dependent glucose transport by sotagliflozin also increased slc2a1a expression, supporting the idea that the glucose transport capacity is dynamically adjusted during zebrafish pronephros development. Concurrent upregulation of mitochondrial SCL25 transporters at later stages supports the idea that the pronephros adjusts to changing substrate supplies and/or energy demands during embryonic development.

Keywords: energy metabolism; pronephros; single-cell RNA sequencing; solute carrier; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Pronephros / embryology
  • Pronephros / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Solute Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Solute Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcriptome*
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Solute Carrier Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins