Stroma is a broad term referring to the connective tissue matrix in which other cells reside. It is composed of diverse cell types with functions such as extracellular matrix maintenance, blood and lymph vessel development, and effector cell recruitment. The tissue microenvironment is determined by the molecular characteristics and relative abundances of different stromal cells such as fibroblasts, endothelial cells, pericytes, and mesenchymal precursor cells. Stromal cell heterogeneity is explained by embryonic developmental lineage, stages of differentiation to other cell types, and activation states. Interaction between immune and stromal cell types is critical to wound healing, cancer, and a wide range of inflammatory diseases. Here, we review recent studies of inflammatory diseases that use functional genomics and single-cell technologies to identify and characterize stromal cell types associated with pathogenesis.
High dimensional strategies using mRNA sequencing, mass cytometry, and fluorescence activated cell-sorting with fresh primary tissue samples are producing detailed views of what is happening in diseased tissue in rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. Fibroblasts positive for CD90 (Thy-1) are enriched in the synovium of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Single-cell RNA-seq studies will lead to more discoveries about the stroma in the near future.
Stromal cells form the microenvironment of inflamed and diseased tissues. Functional genomics is producing an increasingly detailed view of subsets of stromal cells with pathogenic functions in rheumatic diseases and cancer. Future genomics studies will discover disease mechanisms by perturbing molecular pathways with chemokines and therapies known to affect patient outcomes. Functional genomics studies with large sample sizes of patient tissues will identify patient subsets with different disease phenotypes or treatment responses.
Haghighi A, Krier JB, Tóth-Petróczy A, Cassa CA, Frank NY, Carmichael N, Fieg E, Bjonnes AC, Mohanty AK, Briere LC, Lincoln SA, Lucia S, Gupta V, Söylemez O, Sutti S, Kooshesh K, Qiu H, Fay CJ, Perroni V, Valerius J, Hanna M, Frank A, Ouahed JD, Snapper SB, Pantazi A, Chopra SS, Leshchiner I, Stitziel NO, Feldweg AM, Mannstadt M, Loscalzo J, Sweetser DA, Liao E, Stoler JOM, Bearce nowak C, Sanchez-Lara PA, Klein OD, Perry H, Patsopoulos NA, Raychaudhuri S, Goessling W, Green RC, Seidman CE, MacRae CA, Sunyaev S, Maas RL, Vuzman D. An Integrated Clinical Program and Crowdsourcing Strategy for Genomic Sequencing and Mendelian Disease Gene Discovery. npj Genomic Medicine 2018;3:21.Abstract
Despite major progress in defining the genetic basis of Mendelian disorders, the molecular etiology of many cases remains unknown. Patients with these undiagnosed disorders often have complex presentations and require treatment by multiple health care specialists. Here, we describe an integrated clinical diagnostic and research program using whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing (WES/WGS) for Mendelian disease gene discovery. This program employs specific case ascertainment parameters, a WES/WGS computational analysis pipeline that is optimized for Mendelian disease gene discovery with variant callers tuned to specific inheritance modes, an interdisciplinary crowdsourcing strategy for genomic sequence analysis, matchmaking for additional cases, and integration of the findings regarding gene causality with the clinical management plan. The interdisciplinary gene discovery team includes clinical, computational, and experimental biomedical specialists who interact to identify the genetic etiology of the disease, and when so warranted, to devise improved or novel treatments for affected patients. This program effectively integrates the clinical and research missions of an academic medical center and affords both diagnostic and therapeutic options for patients suffering from genetic disease. It may therefore be germane to other academic medical institutions engaged in implementing genomic medicine programs.
Current classification of primary inflammatory arthritis begins from the assumption that adults and children are different. No form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis bears the same name as an adult arthritis, a nomenclature gap with implications for both clinical care and research. Recent genetic data have raised questions regarding this adult/pediatric divide, revealing instead broad patterns that span the age spectrum. Combining these genetic patterns with demographic and clinical data, we propose that inflammatory arthritis can be segregated into 4 main clusters, largely irrespective of pediatric or adult onset: seropositive, seronegative (likely including a distinct group that usually begins in early childhood), spondyloarthritis, and systemic. Each of these broad clusters is internally heterogeneous, highlighting the need for further study to resolve etiologically discrete entities. Eliminating divisions based on arbitrary age cutoffs will enhance opportunities for collaboration between adult and pediatric rheumatologists, thereby helping to promote the understanding and treatment of arthritis.
Cytokines are critical to human disease and are attractive therapeutic targets given their widespread influence on gene regulation and transcription. Defining the downstream regulatory mechanisms influenced by cytokines is central to defining drug and disease mechanisms. One promising strategy is to use interactions between expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) and cytokine levels to define target genes and mechanisms.
In a clinical trial for anti-IL-6 in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, we measure interferon (IFN) status, anti-IL-6 drug exposure, and whole blood genome-wide gene expression at three time points. We show that repeat transcriptomic measurements increases the number of cis eQTLs identified compared to using a single time point. We observe a statistically significant enrichment of in vivo eQTL interactions with IFN status and anti-IL-6 drug exposure and find many novel interactions that have not been previously described. Finally, we find transcription factor binding motifs interrupted by eQTL interaction SNPs, which point to key regulatory mediators of these environmental stimuli and therefore potential therapeutic targets for autoimmune diseases. In particular, genes with IFN interactions are enriched for ISRE binding site motifs, while those with anti-IL-6 interactions are enriched for IRF4 motifs.
This study highlights the potential to exploit clinical trial data to discover in vivo eQTL interactions with therapeutically relevant environmental variables.
High dimensional single-cell analyses have dramatically improved the ability to resolve complex mixtures of cells from human disease samples; however, identifying disease-associated cell types or cell states in patient samples remains challenging due to technical and inter-individual variation. Here we present Mixed effects modeling of Associations of Single Cells (MASC), a novel reverse single cell association strategy for testing whether case-control status influences the membership of single cells in any of multiple cellular subsets while accounting for technical confounds and biological variation. Applying MASC to mass cytometry analyses of CD4+ T cells from blood of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and controls revealed a significantly expanded population of CD4+ T cells, identified as CD27- HLA-DR+ effector memory cells, in RA patients (OR = 1.7; p = 0.0011). The frequency of CD27- HLA-DR+ cells was similarly elevated in blood samples from a second RA patient cohort, and CD27- HLA-DR+ cell frequency decreased in RA patients who respond to immunosuppressive therapy. Compared to peripheral blood, synovial fluid and synovial tissue samples from RA patients contained ~5-fold higher frequencies of CD27- HLA-DR+ cells, which comprised ~10% of synovial CD4+ T cells. We find that CD27- HLA-DR+ cells are abundant producers of IFN-γ and also express perforin and granzyme A at elevated levels. Thus MASC identified the expansion of a unique Th1 skewed effector T cell population with cytotoxic capacity in RA. We propose that MASC is a broadly applicable method to identify disease-associated cell populations in high-dimensional single cell data.
To define potentially causal variants for autoimmune disease, we fine-mapped1,2 76 rheumatoid arthritis (11,475 cases, 15,870 controls)3 and type 1 diabetes loci (9,334 cases, 11,111 controls)4. After sequencing 799 1-kilobase regulatory (H3K4me3) regions within these loci in 568 individuals, we observed accurate imputation for 89% of common variants. We defined credible sets of ≤5 causal variants at 5 rheumatoid arthritis and 10 type 1 diabetes loci. We identified potentially causal missense variants at DNASE1L3, PTPN22, SH2B3, and TYK2, and noncoding variants at MEG3, CD28–CTLA4, and IL2RA. We also identified potential candidate causal variants at SIRPG and TNFAIP3. Using functional assays, we confirmed allele-specific protein binding and differential enhancer activity for three variants: the CD28–CTLA4 rs117701653 SNP, MEG3 rs34552516 indel, and TNFAIP3 rs35926684 indel.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many disease-associated noncoding variants, but cannot distinguish functional single-nucleotide polymorphisms (fSNPs) from others that reside incidentally within risk loci. To address this challenge, we developed an unbiased high-throughput screen that employs type IIS enzymatic restriction to identify fSNPs that allelically modulate the binding of regulatory proteins. We coupled this approach, termed SNP-seq, with flanking restriction enhanced pulldown (FREP) to identify regulation of CD40 by three disease-associated fSNPs via four regulatory proteins, RBPJ, RSRC2 and FUBP-1/TRAP150. Applying this approach across 27 loci associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, we identified 148 candidate fSNPs, including two that regulate STAT4 via the regulatory proteins SATB2 and H1.2. Together, these findings establish the utility of tandem SNP-seq/FREP to bridge the gap between GWAS and disease mechanism.
Donlin LT, Rao DA, Wei K, Slowikowski K, McGeachy MJ, Turner JD, Meednu N, Mizoguchi F, Gutierrez-Arcelus M, Lieb DJ, Keegan J, Muskat K, Hillman J, Rozo C, Ricker E, Eisenhaure TM, Li S, Browne EP, Chicoine A, Sutherby D, Noma A, Network AMPRA/SLE, Nusbaum C, Kelly S, Pernis AB, Ivashkiv LB, Goodman SM, Robinson WH, Utz PJ, Lederer JA, Gravallese EM, Boyce BF, Hacohen N, Pitzalis C, Gregersen PK, Firestein GS, Raychaudhuri S, Moreland LW, Holers VM, Bykerk V, Filer A, Boyle DL, Brenner MB, Anolik JH. Methods for high-dimensonal analysis of cells dissociated from cyropreserved synovial tissue. Arthritis Research & Therapy 2018;20(1):139.Abstract
Detailed molecular analyses of cells from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovium hold promise in identifying cellular phenotypes that drive tissue pathology and joint damage. The Accelerating Medicines Partnership RA/SLE Network aims to deconstruct autoimmune pathology by examining cells within target tissues through multiple highdimensional assays. Robust standardized protocols need to be developed before cellular phenotypes at a single cell level can be effectively compared across patient samples. Methods: Multiple clinical sites collected cryopreserved synovial tissue fragments from arthroplasty and synovial biopsy in a 10% DMSO solution. Mechanical and enzymatic dissociation parameters were optimized for viable cell extraction and surface protein preservation for cell sorting and mass cytometry, as well as for reproducibility in RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). Cryopreserved synovial samples were collectively analyzed at a central processing site by a custom-designed and validated 35-marker mass cytometry panel. In parallel, each sample was flow sorted into fibroblast, T-cell, B-cell, and macrophage suspensions for bulk population RNA-seq and plate-based single-cell CEL-Seq2 RNA-seq. Results: Upon dissociation, cryopreserved synovial tissue fragments yielded a high frequency of viable cells, comparable to samples undergoing immediate processing. Optimization of synovial tissue dissociation across six clinical collection sites with ~ 30 arthroplasty and ~ 20 biopsy samples yielded a consensus digestion protocol using 100 μg/ml of LiberaseTM TL enzyme preparation. This protocol yielded immune and stromal cell lineages with preserved surface markers and minimized variability across replicate RNA-seq transcriptomes. Mass cytometry analysis of cells from cryopreserved synovium distinguished diverse fibroblast phenotypes, distinct populations of memory B cells and antibody-secreting cells, and multiple CD4 and CD8 T-cell activation states. Bulk RNA-seq of sorted cell populations demonstrated robust separation of synovial lymphocytes, fibroblasts, and macrophages. Single-cell RNA-seq produced transcriptomes of over 1000 genes/cell, including transcripts encoding characteristic lineage markers identified.
Genetics can provide a systematic approach to discovering the tissues and cell types relevant for a complex disease or trait. Identifying these tissues and cell types is critical for following up on non-coding allelic function, developing ex-vivo models, and identifying therapeutic targets. Here, we analyze gene expression data from several sources, including the GTEx and PsychENCODE consortia, together with genome-wide association study (GWAS) summary statistics for 48 diseases and traits with an average sample size of 169,331, to identify disease-relevant tissues and cell types. We develop and apply an approach that uses stratified LD score regression to test whether disease heritability is enriched in regions surrounding genes with the highest specific expression in a given tissue. We detect tissue-specific enrichments at FDR < 5% for 34 diseases and traits across a broad range of tissues that recapitulate known biology. In our analysis of traits with observed central nervous system enrichment, we detect an enrichment of neurons over other brain cell types for several brain-related traits, enrichment of inhibitory over excitatory neurons for bipolar disorder but excitatory over inhibitory neurons for schizophrenia and body mass index, and enrichments in the cortex for schizophrenia and in the striatum for migraine. In our analysis of traits with observed immunological enrichment, we identify enrichments of T cells for asthma and eczema, B cells for primary biliary cirrhosis, and myeloid cells for Alzheimer's disease, which we validated with independent chromatin data. Our results demonstrate that our polygenic approach is a powerful way to leverage gene expression data for interpreting GWAS signal.
Fibroblasts mediate normal tissue matrix remodeling, but they can cause fibrosis or tissue destruction following chronic inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), synovial fibroblasts expand, degrade cartilage, and drive joint inflammation. Little is known about fibroblast heterogeneity or if aberrations in fibroblast subsets relate to disease pathology. Here, we used an integrative strategy, including bulk transcriptomics on targeted subpopulations and unbiased single-cell transcriptomics, to analyze fibroblasts from synovial tissues. We identify 7 phenotypic fibroblast subsets with distinct surface protein phenotypes, and these collapsed into 3 subsets based on transcriptomics data. One subset expressing PDPN, THY1, but lacking CD34 was 3-fold expanded in RA relative to osteoarthritis (P=0.007); most of these cells expressed CDH11. The subsets were found to differ in expression of cytokines and matrix metalloproteinases, localization in synovial microanatomy, and in response to TNF. Our approach provides a template to identify pathogenic stromal cellular subsets in complex diseases.