A Single-Cell Transcriptome Profiling of Anterior Kidney Leukocytes From Nile Tilapia ( Oreochromis niloticus)

Front Immunol. 2021 Dec 28;12:783196. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.783196. eCollection 2021.


Teleost fish anterior kidney (AK) is an important hematopoietic organ with multifarious immune cells, which have immune functions comparable to mammalian bone marrow. Myeloid and lymphoid cells locate in the AK, but the lack of useful specific gene markers and antibody-based reagents for the cell subsets makes the identification of the different cell types difficult. Single-cell transcriptome sequencing enables single-cell capture and individual library construction, making the study on the immune cell heterogeneity of teleost fish AK possible. In this study, we examined the transcriptional patterns of 11,388 AK leukocytes using 10× Genomics single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). A total of 22 clusters corresponding to five distinct immune cell subsets were identified, which included B cells, T cells, granulocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells (DCs). However, the subsets of myeloid cells (granulocytes, macrophages, and DCs) were not identified in more detail according to the known specific markers, even though significant differences existed among the clusters. Thereafter, we highlighted the B-cell subsets and identified them as pro/pre B cells, immature/mature B cells, activated B/plasmablasts, or plasma cells based on the different expressions of the transcription factors (TFs) and cytokines. Clustering of the differentially modulated genes by pseudo-temporal trajectory analysis of the B-cell subsets showed the distinct kinetics of the responses of TFs to cell conversion. Moreover, we classified the T cells and discovered that CD3+CD4-CD8-, CD3+CD4+CD8+, CD4+CD8-, and CD4-CD8+ T cells existed in AK, but neither CD4+CD8- nor CD4-CD8+ T cells can be further classified into subsets based on the known TFs and cytokines. Pseudotemporal analysis demonstrated that CD4+CD8- and CD4-CD8+ T cells belonged to different states with various TFs that might control their differentiation. The data obtained above provide a valuable and detailed resource for uncovering the leukocyte subsets in Nile tilapia AK, as well as more potential markers for identifying the myeloid and lymphoid cell types.

Keywords: Nile tilapia; anterior kidney; cell markers; leukocytes; single-cell transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cichlids / genetics
  • Cichlids / immunology*
  • Head Kidney / cytology*
  • Head Kidney / immunology
  • Immunophenotyping*
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis