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Elife. 2019 Mar 12;8. pii: e41627. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41627.

Single cell RNA-seq identifies the origins of heterogeneity in efficient cell transdifferentiation and reprogramming.

Author information

Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, United States.
CNAG-CRG, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Barcelona, Spain.
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain.
Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain.
Contributed equally


Forced transcription factor expression can transdifferentiate somatic cells into other specialised cell types or reprogram them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) with variable efficiency. To better understand the heterogeneity of these processes, we used single-cell RNA sequencing to follow the transdifferentation of murine pre-B cells into macrophages as well as their reprogramming into iPSCs. Even in these highly efficient systems, there was substantial variation in the speed and path of fate conversion. We predicted and validated that these differences are inversely coupled and arise in the starting cell population, with Mychigh large pre-BII cells transdifferentiating slowly but reprogramming efficiently and Myclow small pre-BII cells transdifferentiating rapidly but failing to reprogram. Strikingly, differences in Myc activity predict the efficiency of reprogramming across a wide range of somatic cell types. These results illustrate how single cell expression and computational analyses can identify the origins of heterogeneity in cell fate conversion processes.


computational biology; mouse; regenerative medicine; reprogramming; single cell; stem cells; systems biology; transdifferentiation

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