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Deconstructing Retinal Organoids: Single cell RNA-Seq reveals the cellular components of human pluripotent stem cell-derived retina

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Joseph Collin, Dr Rachel Queen, Dr Darin Zerti, Dr Birthe HilgenORCiD, Raf Hussain, Dr Jonathan Coxhead, Dr Simon CockellORCiD, Professor Majlinda LakoORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The rapid improvements in single cell sequencing technologies and analyses afford greater scope for dissecting organoid cultures composed of multiple cell types and create an opportunity to interrogate these models to understand tissue biology, cellular behaviour and interactions. To this end, retinal organoids generated from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) were analysed by single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-Seq) at three time points of differentiation. Combinatorial data from all time points revealed the presence of nine clusters, five of which corresponded to key retinal cell types: retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), cone and rod photoreceptors and Müller glia. The remaining four clusters expressed genes typical of mitotic cells, extracellular matrix (ECM) components and those involved in homeostasis. The cell clustering analysis revealed the decreasing presence of mitotic cells and RGCs, formation of a distinct RPE cluster, the emergence of cone and rod photoreceptors from photoreceptor precursors and an increasing number of Müller glia cells over time. Pseudo-time analysis resembled the order of cell birth during retinal development, with the mitotic cluster commencing the trajectory and the large majority of Müller glia completing the time line. Together, these data demonstrate the feasibility and potential of scRNA-Seq to dissect the inherent complexity of retinal organoids and the orderly birth of key retinal cell types.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Collin J, Queen R, Zerti D, Dorgau B, Hussain R, Coxhead J, Cockell S, Lako M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Stem Cells (Durham)

Year: 2019

Volume: 37

Issue: 5

Pages: 593-598

Print publication date: 01/05/2019

Online publication date: 12/12/2018

Acceptance date: 03/12/2018

Date deposited: 04/12/2018

ISSN (print): 1066-5099

ISSN (electronic): 1549-4918

Publisher: AlphaMed Press, Inc.


DOI: 10.1002/stem.2963


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Funder referenceFunder name
614620European Research Council (ERC)
MC_PC_15030Medical Research Council (MRC)
MR/M008886/1Medical Research Council (MRC)