Transcriptional Profiling of Skeletal Muscle Stem Cells After In Vivo Engraftment into a Heterologous Niche Environment

Curr Protoc. 2023 Aug;3(8):e877. doi: 10.1002/cpz1.877.


Adult stem cells play a critical role in the maintenance and repair of the organs in which they reside. However, their function is highly dependent on the crosstalk with their niche environment that changes during development and in disease states. The niche provides signals to stem cells to activate, proliferate, self-renew, or remain in quiescence. In skeletal muscle, the niche is perturbed in disease contexts such as aging, muscular dystrophies, and cachexia. Therefore, it is important to develop methods that permit the decoupling of niche-mediated from cell-intrinsic changes that occur in muscle stem cells (MuSCs) in development and disease contexts. With the purpose of determining the effect of the niche environment on the MuSC transcriptome, function, or health, we have coupled an allogeneic stem cell transplantation system, meaning the transplantation of MuSCs from a donor mouse into a recipient host mouse, with Switching Mechanism at 5' End of RNA Template (SMART-Seq) to quantify the effects of the niche on the MuSC transcriptome in vivo. Briefly, MuSCs are isolated from a GFP reporter donor mouse (Pax7-nGFP) and transplanted into the irradiated muscles of immunocompromised allogeneic hosts. The MuSCs are re-isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) after three weeks of inhabiting the heterologous niche, defined as a niche that is different from their originating niche, and sequencing-ready libraries are created. This method allows for the direct comparison of the transcriptome of stem cells before and after transplantation into a host of a different age, disease status, or genetic background. This method can be used to accurately quantify the direct effect of the niche environment on the stem cell gene expression profile and to decouple cell-intrinsic versus niche-mediated alterations in the stem cell transcriptome. © 2023 The Authors. Current Protocols published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. Basic Protocol: Allogeneic muscle stem cell transplantation.

Keywords: SMART-Seq; muscle stem cell; niche environment; transcriptomics; transplantation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells*
  • Animals
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Tissue Donors