Co-expression enrichment analysis at the single-cell level reveals convergent defects in neural progenitor cells and their cell-type transitions in neurodevelopmental disorders
Recent large-scale sequencing studies have identified a great number of genes whose disruptions cause neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). However, cell-type-specific functions of NDD genes and their contributions to NDD pathology are unclear. Here, we integrated NDD genetics with single-cell RNA sequencing data to identify cell-type and temporal convergence of genes involved in different NDDs. By assessing the co-expression enrichment pattern of various NDD gene sets, we identified mid-fetal cortical neural progenitor cell development--more specifically, ventricular radial glia-to-intermediate progenitor cell transition at gestational week 10--as a key convergent point in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and epilepsy. Integrated gene ontology-based analyses further revealed that ASD genes function as upstream regulators to activate neural differentiation and inhibit cell cycle during the transition, whereas epilepsy genes function as downstream effectors in the same processes, offering a potential explanation for the high comorbidity rate of the two disorders. Together, our study provides a framework for investigating the cell-type-specific pathophysiology of NDDs.
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