Cell types in the mouse cortex and hippocampus revealed by single-cell RNA-seq

Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1138-1142
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1934

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Cellular diversity in the brain revealed

The mammalian brain has an extraordinarily large number of cells. Although there are quite a few different cell types, many cells in any one category tend to look alike. Zeisel et al. analyzed the transcriptomes of mouse brain cells to reveal more than meets the eye. Interneurons of similar type were found in dissimilar regions of the brain. Oligodendrocytes that seemed to be all of one class were differentiated by their molecular signatures into a half-dozen classes. Microglia associated with blood vessels were distinguished from look-alike perivascular macrophages. Thus, the complex microanatomy of the brain can be revealed by the RNAs expressed in its cells.

Science, this issue p. 1138


The mammalian cerebral cortex supports cognitive functions such as sensorimotor integration, memory, and social behaviors. Normal brain function relies on a diverse set of differentiated cell types, including neurons, glia, and vasculature. Here, we have used large-scale single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to classify cells in the mouse somatosensory cortex and hippocampal CA1 region. We found 47 molecularly distinct subclasses, comprising all known major cell types in the cortex. We identified numerous marker genes, which allowed alignment with known cell types, morphology, and location. We found a layer I interneuron expressing Pax6 and a distinct postmitotic oligodendrocyte subclass marked by Itpr2. Across the diversity of cortical cell types, transcription factors formed a complex, layered regulatory code, suggesting a mechanism for the maintenance of adult cell type identity.

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