Inflammatory monocytes are key mediators of acute and chronic inflammation; yet, their functional diversity remains obscure. Single-cell transcriptome analyses of human inflammatory monocytes from COVID-19 and rheumatoid arthritis patients revealed a subset of cells positive for CD127, an IL-7 receptor subunit, and such positivity rendered otherwise inert monocytes responsive to IL-7. Active IL-7 signaling engaged epigenetically coupled, STAT5-coordinated transcriptional programs to restrain inflammatory gene expression, resulting in inverse correlation between CD127 expression and inflammatory phenotypes in a seemingly homogeneous monocyte population. In COVID-19 and rheumatoid arthritis, CD127 marked a subset of monocytes/macrophages that retained hypoinflammatory phenotypes within the highly inflammatory tissue environments. Furthermore, generation of an integrated expression atlas revealed unified features of human inflammatory monocytes across different diseases and different tissues, exemplified by those of the CD127high subset. Overall, we phenotypically and molecularly characterized CD127-imprinted functional heterogeneity of human inflammatory monocytes with direct relevance for inflammatory diseases.
© 2022 Zhang et al.