Cell atlas of the human ocular anterior segment: Tissue-specific and shared cell types

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The anterior segment of the eye consists of the cornea, iris, ciliary body, crystalline lens, and aqueous humor outflow pathways. Together, these tissues are essential for the proper functioning of the eye. Disorders of vision have been ascribed to defects in all of them; some disorders, including glaucoma and cataract, are among the most prevalent causes of blindness in the world. To characterize the cell types that compose these tissues, we generated an anterior segment cell atlas of the human eye using high-throughput single-nucleus RNA sequencing (snRNAseq). We profiled 195,248 nuclei from nondiseased anterior segment tissues of six human donors, identifying >60 cell types. Many of these cell types were discrete, whereas others, especially in the lens and cornea, formed continua corresponding to known developmental transitions that persist in adulthood. Having profiled each tissue separately, we performed an integrated analysis of the entire anterior segment, revealing that some cell types are unique to a single structure, whereas others are shared across tissues. The integrated cell atlas was then used to investigate cell type-specific expression patterns of more than 900 human ocular disease genes identified through either Mendelian inheritance patterns or genome-wide association studies.

Tavé van Zyl, Wenjun Yan, Alexi M McAdams,  Aboozar Monavarfeshani, Gregory S Hageman, Joshua R Sanes