Purpose: Persistent fetal vasculature (PFV) is a pathological condition accounting for 4.8% of children's blindness in the United States. However, the PFV cell composition and pathogenetic mechanisms are poorly understood. This study aims to characterize PFV cell composition and associated molecular features and attempts to lay a foundation for further understanding the disease.
Methods: Immunohistochemistry was conducted to characterize cell types at the tissue level. Single-cell RNA sequencing (sc-RNAseq) was performed on the vitreous cells derived from normal and Fz5 mutant mice at two early postnatal ages and human PFV samples. Bioinformatic tools were used to cluster cells and analyze their molecular features and functions.
Results: The findings of this study are as follows: (1) a total of 10 defined and one undefined cell types were characterized in both the hyaloid vessel system and PFV by sc-RNAseq and immunohistochemistry; (2) neural crest-derived melanocytes, astrocytes, and fibroblasts were specifically retained in the mutant PFV; (3) Fz5 mutants were found to possess more vitreous cells at early postnatal age 3 but returned to similar levels as the wild type at postnatal age 6; (4) altered phagocytic and proliferation environments and cell-cell interactions were detected in the mutant vitreous; (5) the human PFV samples shared fibroblast, endothelial and macrophage cell types with the mouse, but having distinct immune cells including T cells, NK cells and Neutrophils; and last, (6) some neural crest features were also shared between certain mouse and human vitreous cell types.
Conclusions: We characterized PFV cell composition and associated molecular features in the Fz5 mutant mice and two human PFV samples. The excessively migrated vitreous cells, intrinsic molecular properties of these cells, phagocytic environment, and cell-cell interactions may together contribute to PFV pathogenesis. Human PFV shares certain cell types and molecular features with the mouse.