Single cell analysis of the developing mouse kidney provides deeper insight into marker gene expression and ligand-receptor crosstalk


Recent advances in the generation of kidney organoids and the culture of primary nephron progenitors from mouse and human have been based on knowledge of the molecular basis of kidney development in mice. Although gene expression during kidney development has been intensely investigated, single cell profiling provides new opportunities to further subsect component cell types and the signalling networks at play. Here, we describe the generation and analysis of 6732 single cell transcriptomes from the fetal mouse kidney [embryonic day (E)18.5] and 7853 sorted nephron progenitor cells (E14.5). These datasets provide improved resolution of cell types and specific markers, including subdivision of the renal stroma and heterogeneity within the nephron progenitor population. Ligand-receptor interaction and pathway analysis reveals novel crosstalk between cellular compartments and associates new pathways with differentiation of nephron and ureteric epithelium cell types. We identify transcriptional congruence between the distal nephron and ureteric epithelium, showing that most markers previously used to identify ureteric epithelium are not specific. Together, this work improves our understanding of metanephric kidney development and provides a template to guide the regeneration of renal tissue.