Single-cell transcriptomics reveals the landscape of intra-tumoral heterogeneity and transcriptional activities of ECs in CC

Mol Ther Nucleic Acids. 2021 Apr 2;24:682-694. doi: 10.1016/j.omtn.2021.03.017. eCollection 2021 Jun 4.


Cervical cancer (CC) is the fourth leading cause of deaths in gynecological malignancies. Although the etiology of CC has been extensively investigated, the exact pathogenesis of CC remains incomplete. Recently, single-cell technologies demonstrated advantages in exploring intra-tumoral diversification among various tumor cells. However, single-cell transcriptome analysis (single-cell RNA sequencing [scRNA-seq]) of CC cells and microenvironment has not been conducted. In this study, a total of 20,938 cells from CC and adjacent normal tissues were examined by scRNA-seq. We identified four tumor cell subpopulations in tumor cells, which had specific signature genes with different biological functions and presented different prognoses. Among them, we identified a subset of cancer stem cells (CSCs) that was related to the developmental hierarchy of tumor progression. Then, we compared the expressive differences between tumor-derived endothelial cells (TECs) and normal ECs (NECs) and revealed higher expression of several metabolism-related genes in TECs. Then, we explored the potential biological function of ECs in vascularization and found several marker genes, which played a prior role in connections between cancer cells and ECs. Our findings provide valuable resources for deciphering the intra-tumoral heterogeneity of CC and uncover the developmental procedure of ECs, which paves the way for CC therapy.

Keywords: cervical cancer; endothelial cell; single-cell RNA sequencing; tumor heterogeneity.