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In JBMR plus

The current paradigm of osteoblast fate is that the majority undergo apoptosis, while some further differentiate into osteocytes and others flatten and cover bone surfaces as bone lining cells. Osteoblasts have been described to exhibit heterogeneous expression of a variety of osteoblast markers at both transcriptional and protein levels. To explore further this heterogeneity and its biological significance, Venus-positive (Venus+) cells expressing the fluorescent protein Venus under the control of the 2.3-kb Col1a1 promoter were isolated from newborn mouse calvariae and subjected to single-cell RNA sequencing. Functional annotation of the genes expressed in 272 Venus+ single cells indicated that Venus+ cells are osteoblasts that can be categorized into four clusters. Of these, three clusters (clusters 1 to 3) exhibited similarities in their expression of osteoblast markers, while one (cluster 4) was distinctly different. We identified a total of 1920 cluster-specific genes and pseudotime ordering analyses based on established concepts and known markers showed that clusters 1 to 3 captured osteoblasts at different maturational stages. Analysis of gene co-expression networks showed that genes involved in protein synthesis and protein trafficking between endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi are active in these clusters. However, the cells in these clusters were also defined by extensive heterogeneity of gene expression, independently of maturational stage. Cells of cluster 4 expressed Cd34 and Cxcl12 with relatively lower levels of osteoblast markers, suggesting that this cell type differs from actively bone-forming osteoblasts and retain or reacquire progenitor properties. Based on expression and machine learning analyses of the transcriptomes of individual osteoblasts, we also identified genes that may be useful as new markers of osteoblast maturational stages. Taken together, our data show much more extensive heterogeneity of osteoblasts than previously documented, with gene profiles supporting diversity of osteoblast functional activities and developmental fates. © 2021 The Authors. JBMR Plus published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

Yoshioka Hirotaka, Okita Saki, Nakano Masashi, Minamizaki Tomoko, Nubukiyo Asako, Sotomaru Yusuke, Bonnelye Edith, Kozai Katsuyuki, Tanimoto Kotaro, Aubin Jane E, Yoshiko Yuji