Acoel single-cell atlas reveals expression dynamics and heterogeneity of adult pluripotent stem cells

Nat Commun. 2023 May 5;14(1):2612. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-38016-4.


Adult pluripotent stem cell (aPSC) populations underlie whole-body regeneration in many distantly-related animal lineages, but how the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms compare across species is unknown. Here, we apply single-cell RNA sequencing to profile transcriptional cell states of the acoel worm Hofstenia miamia during postembryonic development and regeneration. We identify cell types shared across stages and their associated gene expression dynamics during regeneration. Functional studies confirm that the aPSCs, also known as neoblasts, are the source of differentiated cells and reveal transcription factors needed for differentiation. Subclustering of neoblasts recovers transcriptionally distinct subpopulations, the majority of which are likely specialized to differentiated lineages. One neoblast subset, showing enriched expression of the histone variant H3.3, appears to lack specialization. Altogether, the cell states identified in this study facilitate comparisons to other species and enable future studies of stem cell fate potentials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Planarians* / genetics
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors
  • Histones