Single-cell transcriptomic landscape of cardiac neural crest cell derivatives during development

EMBO Rep. 2021 Sep 27;e52389. doi: 10.15252/embr.202152389. Online ahead of print.


The migratory cardiac neural crest cells (CNCCs) contribute greatly to cardiovascular development. A thorough understanding of the cell lineages, developmental chronology, and transcriptomic states of CNCC derivatives during normal development is essential for deciphering the pathogenesis of CNCC-associated congenital anomalies. Here, we perform single-cell transcriptomic sequencing of 34,131 CNCC-derived cells in mouse hearts covering eight developmental stages between E10.5 and P7. We report the presence of CNCC-derived mural cells that comprise pericytes and microvascular smooth muscle cells (mVSMCs). Furthermore, we identify the transition from the CNCC-derived pericytes to mVSMCs and the key regulators over the transition. In addition, our data support that many CNCC derivatives had already committed or differentiated to a specific lineage when migrating into the heart. We explore the spatial distribution of some critical CNCC-derived subpopulations with single-molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization. Finally, we computationally reconstruct the differentiation path and regulatory dynamics of CNCC derivatives. Our study provides novel insights into the cell lineages, developmental chronology, and regulatory dynamics of CNCC derivatives during development.

Keywords: cardiac neural crest cell; embryonic development; mural cell; neonatal development; single-cell RNA-seq.