USTC Deciphers Transcriptomic Atlas of Aging Human and Macaque Retina

A research group led by Prof. XUE Tian from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), collaborating with Prof. WU Qian form Beijing Normal University and Prof. WANG Xiaoqun from Institute of Biophysics of CAS, provided a comprehensive transcriptomic atlas based on 119520 single cells of retina of human and macaque at different ages.

This work, which provides valuable basic for the molecular regulation of aging progression and related diseases, was published in National Science Review on August 25th 2020.

Vision is the most important perception for humans and animals. The human retina is a specialized light-sensitive tissue of neurons, glia, and nourishing blood vessels. Different cell in the retina convert the incoming light into electrochemical signals and then relay to the brain for visual formation. However, as people age, the function of the retina deteriorates and the risk of various aging related diseases increases. Thus, it is necessary to understand the aging process and underlying complexities of the retina to help rescuing age-related retinal diseases.

Researchers collected 119520 cell transcriptomes of human and macaque retina from young to old. Firstly, by comparing the human and macaque retinal cell composition and regional molecular differences, researchers found that though rods of humans and macaques can be both divided into two subtypes by MYO9A expression, the proportion of MYO9A- cells varied between the two species.

Later, researchers then compared the macular area with the peripheral area of the retina. The results showed that there were significant differences in gene expression in macular area and peripheral area between Muller Glia (MG) and Cone.

Researchers used the aging database to fit the macular and peripheral regions of the retina and calculate the aging curves of the two regions. The results showed that the degree of senescence in macular area was higher than that in peripheral area, which was consistent with the high expression of MGs in peripheral area.

In addition, studies have found that rods are significantly damaged in the aging process, especially MYO9A- rod cells are more likely to reduce in the aging process.

Finally, they generated a dataset showing the cell-type and region-specific gene expression associated with 55 types of human retinal disease.

This study is the first international report on the single-cell transcriptome atlas of retinal in human and non-human primates, which not only systematically analyzes the molecular characteristics of various cell types in the human retina during the aging process, but also reveals the regional and cell subtype specific evolution of retinal aging.

(Written by LU Hongyu, edited by LI Xiaoxi, USTC News Center)

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