Single-cell transcriptomics dissects hematopoietic cell destruction and T cell engagement in aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia (AA) is a T cell-mediated autoimmune disorder of the hematopoietic system manifested by severe depletion of the hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Nonetheless our understanding of the complex relationship between HSPCs and T cells is still obscure, mainly limited by techniques and the sparsity of HSPCs in the context of bone marrow failure. Here we performed single-cell transcriptome analysis of residual HSPCs and T cells to identify the molecular players from AA patients. We observed that residual HSPCs in AA exhibited lineage-specific alterations in gene expression and transcriptional regulatory networks, indicating a selective disruption of distinct lineage-committed progenitor pools. In particular, HSPCs displayed frequently altered alternative splicing events and skewed patterns of polyadenylation in transcripts related to DNA damage and repair, suggesting a likely role in AA progression to myelodysplastic syndromes. We further identified cell-type-specific ligand-receptor interactions as potential mediators for ongoing HSPCs destruction by T cells. By tracking patients after immunosuppressive therapy (IST), we showed that hematopoiesis remission was incomplete accompanied by IST insensitive interactions between HSPCs and T cells as well as sustained abnormal transcription state. These data collectively constitute the transcriptomic landscape of disrupted hematopoiesis in AA at single-cell resolution, providing new insights into the molecular interactions of engaged T cells with residual HSPCs and render novel therapeutic opportunities for AA.

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Authors: Caiying Zhu, Yu Lian, Chenchen Wang, Peng Wu, Xuan Li, Yan Gao, Sibin Fan, Lanlan Ai, Liwei Fang, Hong Pan, Tao Cheng, Jun Shi, Ping Zhu