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Single-cell RNA sequencing reveals the heterogeneity of infiltrating immune cell profiles in the hepatic cystic echinococcosis microenvironment

Aimaiti Yasen, Wujianan Sun, Abudusalamu Aini, Tuerganaili Aji, Yingmei Shao, Hui Wang, Kun Li, Wending Li, Chuanshan Zhang, Ayifuhan Ahan,
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Published: 7 September 2021

Abstract: Human cystic echinococcosis, caused by the larval stage of echinococcus granulus sensu lato , has been reported a near-cosmopolitan zoonotic disease. Various infiltrating immune cells gather around the lesion and produce lesion microenvironment, however cellular composition and heterogeneity in hepatic cystic echinococcosis lesion microenvironment are incompletely understood. Here, 81,865 immune cells isolated from peripheral blood, peri-lesion liver tissue, and adjacent normal liver tissue from four cystic echinococcosis patients were profiled using single-cell RNA sequencing. We identified 23 discrete cell populations, and found distinct differences in infiltrating immune cells between tissue environments. Despite the significant similarity between peri-lesion and adjacent normal liver tissue-resident immune cells, the cellular proportions of innate lymphocyte 2 and plasmacytoid dendritic cells were higher in peri-lesion liver tissue. Interestingly, the immunosuppressive gene NFKBIA was up-regulated in these cells. Seven subsets of CD4 + T cell populations were found, and there were more Treg-CD4 + T and Th2-CD4 + T cells in peri-lesion tissue than those in adjacent normal tissue. There was close contact between CD4 + T cells and ILC2 and pDCs cells, which caused up-regulation of genes related to positive immune activity in adjacent normal liver tissue. However, expression of genes related to immunosuppression, especially the immune inhibitory checkpoint gene NKG2A/HLA-E, was obviously higher in peri-lesion tissue, suggesting that cellular interaction resulted in an inhibitory microenvironment in the CE lesion. This work offers new insights into the transcriptional heterogeneity of infiltrating immune cells in hepatic cystic echinococcosis lesion microenvironment at single-cell level, and provides potential target signatures for diagnosis and immunotherapies.
Keywords: expression of genes / immune cells / CD4 / heterogeneity of infiltrating / echinococcosis lesion microenvironment / cell RNA sequencing / Single cell RNA / cystic echinococcosis lesion

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