Research Article

Cell type atlas and lineage tree of a whole complex animal by single-cell transcriptomics

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Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, eaaq1723
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1723

Mapping the planarian transcriptome

A cell type's transcriptome defines the active genes that control its biology. Two groups used single-cell RNA sequencing to define the transcriptomes for essentially all cell types of a complete animal, the regenerative planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. Because pluripotent stem cells constantly differentiate to rejuvenate any part of the body of this species, all developmental lineages are active in adult animals. Fincher et al. determined the transcriptomes for most, if not all, planarian cell types, including some that were previously unknown. They also identified transition states and genes governing positional information. Plass et al. used single-cell transcriptomics and computational algorithms to reconstruct a lineage tree capturing the developmental progressions from stem to differentiated cells. They could then predict gene programs that are specifically turned on and off along the tree, and they used this approach to study how the cell types behaved during regeneration. These whole-animal transcriptome “atlases” are a powerful way to study metazoan biology.

Science, this issue p. eaaq1736, p. eaaq1723