Single-cell RNA-seq reveals cell type-specific transcriptional signatures at the maternal-foetal interface during pregnancy
Nelson AC., Mould AW., Bikoff EK., Robertson EJ.
Growth and survival of the mammalian embryo within the uterine environment depends on the placenta, a highly complex vascularized organ comprised of both maternal and foetal tissues. Recent experiments demonstrate that the zinc finger transcriptional repressor Prdm1/Blimp1 is essential for specification of spiral artery trophoblast giant cells (SpA-TGCs) that invade and remodel maternal blood vessels. To learn more about functional contributions made by Blimp1+ cell lineages here we performed the first single-cell RNA-seq analysis of the placenta. Cell types of both foetal and maternal origin were profiled. Comparisons with microarray datasets from mutant placenta and in vitro differentiated trophoblast stem cells allowed us to identify Blimp1-dependent transcripts enriched in SpA-TGCs. Our experiments provide new insights into the functionally distinct cell types present at the maternal-foetal interface and advance our knowledge of dynamic gene expression patterns controlling placental morphogenesis and vascular mimicry.