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Single-Cell mRNA Profiling Identifies Progenitor Subclasses in Neurospheres

Narayanan, G., Poonepalli, A., Chen, J., et al.

Neurospheres are widely used to propagate and investigate neural stem cells (NSCs) and neural progenitors (NPs). However, the exact cell types present within neurospheres are still unknown. To identify cell types, we used single-cell mRNA profiling of 48 genes in 187 neurosphere cells. Using a clustering algorithm, we identified 3 discrete cell populations within neurospheres. One cell population [cluster unsorted (US) 1] expresses high Bmi1 and Hes5 and low Myc and Klf12. Cluster US2 shows intermediate expression of most of the genes analyzed. Cluster US3 expresses low Bmi1 and Hes5 and high Myc and Klf12. The mRNA profiles of these 3 cell populations correlate with a developmental timeline of early, intermediate, and late NPs, as seen in vivo from the mouse brain. We enriched the cell population for neurosphere-forming cells (NFCs) using morphological criteria of forward scatter (FSC) and side scatter (SSC). FSC/SSChigh cells generated 2.29-fold more neurospheres than FSC/SSClow cells at clonal density. FSC/SSChigh cells were enriched for NSCs and Lewis-X+ve cells, possessed higher phosphacan levels, and were of a larger cell size. Clustering of both FSC/SSChigh and FSC/SSClow cells identified an NFC cluster. Significantly, the mRNA profile of the NFC cluster drew close resemblance to that of early NPs. Taken together, data suggest that the neurosphere culture system can be used to model central nervous system development, and that early NPs are the cell population that gives rise to neurospheres. In future work, it may be possible to further dissect the NFCs and reveal the molecular signature for NSCs.

Citation

Narayanan, G., Poonepalli, A., Chen, J., et al. "Single-Cell mRNA Profiling Identifies Progenitor Subclasses in Neurospheres" Stem Cells and Development (2012): 3,351–62