Multiplexed droplet single-cell sequencing (Mux-Seq) of normal and transplant kidney

Am J Transplant. 2022 Mar;22(3):876-885. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16871. Epub 2021 Dec 4.


Maintenance of systemic homeostasis by kidney requires the coordinated response of diverse cell types. The use of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) for patient tissue samples remains fraught with difficulties with cell isolation, purity, and experimental bias. The ability to characterize immune and parenchymal cells during transplant rejection will be invaluable in defining transplant pathology where tissue availability is restricted to needle biopsy fragments. Herein, we present feasibility data for multiplexing approach for droplet scRNAseq (Mux-Seq). Mux-Seq has the potential to minimize experimental batch bias and variation even with very small sample input. In this first proof-of-concept study for this approach, explant tissues from six normal and two transplant recipients after multiple early post-transplant rejection episodes leading to nephrectomy due to aggressive antibody mediated rejection, were pooled for Mux-Seq. A computational tool, Demuxlet was applied for demultiplexing the individual cells from the pooled experiment. Each sample was also applied individually in a single microfluidic run (singleplex) to correlate results with the pooled data from the same sample. Our applied protocol demonstrated that data from Mux-Seq correlated highly with singleplex (Pearson coefficient 0.982) sequencing results, with the ability to identify many known and novel kidney cell types including different infiltrating immune cells. Trajectory analysis of proximal tubule and endothelial cells demonstrated separation between healthy and injured kidney from transplant explant suggesting evolving stages of cell- specific differentiation in alloimmune injury. This study provides the technical groundwork for understanding the pathogenesis of alloimmune injury and host tissue response in transplant rejection and normal human kidney and provides a protocol for optimized processing precious and low input human kidney biopsy tissue for larger scale studies.

Keywords: basic (laboratory) research/science; kidney (allograft) function/dysfunction; kidney biology; kidney transplantation/nephrology; rejection; translational research/science.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • Endothelial Cells*
  • Graft Rejection / etiology
  • Graft Rejection / genetics
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Transplantation* / adverse effects