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Transcriptomic profiling of human orbital fat and differentiating orbital fibroblasts

By Dong Won Kim, Kamil Taneja, Thanh Hoang, Clayton Pio Santiago, Timothy James McCulley, Shannath Louise Merbs, Nicholas Robert Mahoney, Seth Blackshaw, Fatemeh Rajaii

Posted 15 May 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.13.443857

Purpose: Orbital fat hyperplasia has a central role in the manifestations of thyroid-associated orbitopathy (TAO). To better understand the pathways involved in adipogenesis in TAO, we have used transcriptomic methods to analyze gene expression in control and TAO patients, as well as in differentiating orbital fibroblasts (OFs). Methods: We performed bulk RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) on intraconal orbital fat to compare gene expression in control and TAO patients. We treated cultured OFs derived from TAO patients with media containing dexamethasone, insulin, rosiglitazone, and isobutylmethylxanthine (IBMX) to induce adipogenesis. We used single nuclear RNA-Seq (snRNA-Seq) profiling of treated OFs to compare gene expression over time in order to identify pathways that are involved in orbital adipogenesis in vitro and compared the dynamic patterns of gene expression identify differences in gene expression in control and TAO orbital fat. Results: Orbital fat from TAO and control patients segregate with principal component analysis (PCA). Numerous signaling pathways are enriched in orbital fat isolated from TAO patients. SnRNA-Seq of orbital fibroblasts undergoing adipogenesis reveals differential expression of adipocyte-specific genes over the developmental time course. Furthermore, genes that are enriched in TAO orbital fat are also upregulated in orbital adipocytes that differentiate in vitro, while genes that are enriched in control orbital fat are enriched in orbital fibroblasts prior to differentiation. Conclusions: Differentiating orbital fibroblasts serve as a model to study orbital fat hyperplasia seen in TAO. We demonstrate that the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) and Wnt signaling pathways are differentially expressed early in orbital adipogenesis.

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