Single-cell transcriptomic profiling of microvascular endothelial cell heterogeneity in congenital diaphragmatic hernia

Sci Rep. 2023 Jun 17;13(1):9851. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-37050-y.


Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a neonatal anomaly that includes pulmonary hypoplasia and hypertension. We hypothesized that microvascular endothelial cell (EC) heterogeneity is different in CDH lungs and related to lung underdevelopment and remodeling. To test this, we evaluated rat fetuses at E21.5 in a nitrofen model of CDH to compare lung transcriptomes among healthy controls (2HC), nitrofen-exposed controls (NC) and nitrofen-exposed subjects with CDH. Single-cell RNA sequencing with unbiased clustering revealed 3 distinct microvascular EC clusters: a general population (mvEC), a proliferative population and a population high in hemoglobin. Only the CDH mvEC cluster had a distinct inflammatory transcriptomic signature as compared to the 2HC and NC endothelial cells, e.g. greater activation and adhesion of inflammatory cells and production of reactive oxygen species. Furthermore, CDH mvECs had downregulated Ca4, Apln and Ednrb gene expression. Those genes are markers for ECs important to lung development, gas exchange and alveolar repair (mvCa4+). mvCa4+ ECs were reduced in CDH (2HC [22.6%], NC [13.1%] and CDH [5.3%], p < 0.0001). Overall, these findings identify transcriptionally distinct microvascular endothelial cell clusters in CDH, including the distinctly inflammatory mvEC cluster and the depleted group of mvCa4+ ECs, which together may contribute to pathogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital* / genetics
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Transcriptome


  • nitrofen