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A Human Liver Cell Atlas: Revealing Cell Type Heterogeneity and Adult Liver Progenitors by Single-Cell RNA-sequencing

By Nadim Aizarani, Antonio Saviano, Sagar, Laurent Mailly, Sarah Durand, Patrick Pessaux, Thomas F Baumert, Dominic GrĂ¼n

Posted 24 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/649194 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1373-2)

The human liver is an essential multifunctional organ, and liver diseases are rising with limited treatment options. However, the cellular complexity and heterogeneity of the liver remain poorly understood. Here, we performed single-cell RNA-sequencing of ~5,000 cells from normal liver tissue of 6 human donors to construct the first human liver cell atlas. Our analysis revealed previously unknown sub-types among endothelial cells, Kupffer cells, and hepatocytes with transcriptome-wide zonation of these populations. We show that the EPCAM+ population is highly heterogeneous and consists of hepatocyte progenitors, cholangiocytes and a MUC6 + stem cell population with a specific potential to form liver organoids. As proof-of-principle, we applied our atlas to unravel phenotypic changes in cells from hepatocellular carcinoma tissue and to investigate cellular phenotypes of human hepatocytes and liver endothelial cells engrafted into a humanized FAH -/- mouse liver. Our human liver cell atlas provides a powerful and innovative resource enabling the discovery of previously unknown cell types in the normal and diseased liver.

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