Whole-body single-cell sequencing reveals transcriptional domains in the annelid larval body.

25 Jun 2018

Animal bodies comprise diverse arrays of cells. To characterise cellular identities across an entire body, we have compared the transcriptomes of single cells randomly picked from dissociated whole larvae of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii. We identify five transcriptionally distinct groups of differentiated cells, each expressing a unique set of transcription factors and effector genes that implement cellular phenotypes. Spatial mapping of cells into a cellular expression atlas, and wholemount in situ hybridisation of group-specific genes reveals spatially coherent transcriptional domains in the larval body, comprising e.g. apical sensory-neurosecretory cells vs. neural/epidermal surface cells. These domains represent new, basic subdivisions of the annelid body based entirely on differential gene expression, and are composed of multiple, transcriptionally similar cell types. They do not represent clonal domains, as revealed by developmental lineage analysis. We propose that the transcriptional domains that subdivide the annelid larval body represent families of related cell types that have arisen by evolutionary diversification. Their possible evolutionary conservation makes them a promising tool for evo-devo research. (167/250).