Diversity of developing peripheral glia revealed by single-cell RNA sequencing

Dev Cell. 2021 Sep 13;56(17):2516-2535.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2021.08.005. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


The peripheral nervous system responds to a wide variety of sensory stimuli, a process that requires great neuronal diversity. These diverse neurons are closely associated with glial cells originating from the neural crest. However, the molecular nature and diversity among peripheral glia are not understood. Here, we used single-cell RNA sequencing to profile developing and mature glia from somatosensory dorsal root ganglia and auditory spiral ganglia. We found that glial precursors (GPs) in these two systems differ in their transcriptional profiles. Despite their unique features, somatosensory and auditory GPs undergo convergent differentiation to generate molecularly uniform myelinating and non-myelinating Schwann cells. By contrast, somatosensory and auditory satellite glial cells retain system-specific features. Lastly, we identified a glial signature gene set, providing new insights into commonalities among glia across the nervous system. This survey of gene expression in peripheral glia constitutes a resource for understanding functions of glia across different sensory modalities.

Keywords: Schwann cells; cochlea; development of glia; dorsal root ganglion; glial precursor; myelination; peripheral glia; satellite glia; single-cell RNA sequencing; supporting cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Crest / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Schwann Cells / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA* / methods