Single-cell profiling of healthy human kidney reveals features of sex-based transcriptional programs and tissue-specific immunity

Nat Commun. 2022 Dec 10;13(1):7634. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-35297-z.


Knowledge of the transcriptional programs underpinning the functions of human kidney cell populations at homeostasis is limited. We present a single-cell perspective of healthy human kidney from 19 living donors, with equal contribution from males and females, profiling the transcriptome of 27677 cells to map human kidney at high resolution. Sex-based differences in gene expression within proximal tubular cells were observed, specifically, increased anti-oxidant metallothionein genes in females and aerobic metabolism-related genes in males. Functional differences in metabolism were confirmed in proximal tubular cells, with male cells exhibiting higher oxidative phosphorylation and higher levels of energy precursor metabolites. We identified kidney-specific lymphocyte populations with unique transcriptional profiles indicative of kidney-adapted functions. Significant heterogeneity in myeloid cells was observed, with a MRC1+LYVE1+FOLR2+C1QC+ population representing a predominant population in healthy kidney. This study provides a detailed cellular map of healthy human kidney, and explores the complexity of parenchymal and kidney-resident immune cells.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Folate Receptor 2* / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Kidney* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metallothionein / genetics
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome


  • Metallothionein
  • FOLR2 protein, human
  • Folate Receptor 2