Single nuclei transcriptomics reveal the differentiation trajectories of periosteal skeletal/stem progenitor cells in bone regeneration

  1. Univ Paris Est Creteil, INSERM, IMRB, Creteil, France
  2. Paris Cité University, Imagine Institute, Laboratory of Inflammatory Responses and Transcriptomic Networks in Diseases, Atip-Avenir Team, INSERM UMR 1163, Paris, France
  3. Labtech Single-Cell@Imagine, Imagine Institute, INSERM UMR 1163, Paris, France
  4. 4Bioinformatics Core Facility, Institut Imagine-Structure Fédérative de Recherche Necker, INSERM U1163
  5. INSERM US24/CNRS UAR3633, Paris Cité University, Paris, France


  • Reviewing Editor
    Jihwan Park
    Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Gwangju, Korea, the Republic of
  • Senior Editor
    Murim Choi
    Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, the Republic of

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

This study delineates an important set of uninjured and injured periosteal snRNAseq data that provides an overview of periosteal cell responses to fracture healing. The authors also took additional steps to validate some of the findings using immunohistochemistry and transplantation assays. This study will provide a valuable publicly accessible dataset to reexamine the expression of the reported periosteal stem and progenitor cell markers.

1. This is the first single-nuclei atlas of periosteal cells that are obtained without enzymatic cell dissociation or targeted cell purification by FACS. This integrated snRNAseq dataset will provide additional opportunities for the community to revisit the expression of many periosteal cell markers that have been reported to date.

2. The authors delved further into the dataset using cutting-edge algorithms, including CytoTrace, SCENIC, Monocle, STRING, and CellChat, to define the potential roles of identified cell populations in the context of fracture healing. These additional computation analyses generate many new hypotheses regarding periosteal cell reactions.

3. The authors also sought to validate some of the computational findings using immunohistochemistry and transplantation assays to support the conclusion.

1. The current snRNAseq datasets contain only a small number of nuclei (1,189 nuclei at day 0, 6,213 nuclei on day 0-7 combined). It is unclear if the number is sufficient to discern subtle biological processes such as stem cell differentiation.

2. The authors' designation of Sca1+CD34+ cells as SSPCs is not sufficiently supported by experimental evidence. It will be essential to demonstrate stem/progenitor properties of Sca1+CD34+ cells using independent biological approaches such as CFU-F assays. In addition, the putative lineage trajectory of SSPCs toward IIFCs, osteoblasts, and chondrocytes remains highly speculative without concrete supporting data.

3. The designation of POSTN+ clusters as injury-induced fibrogenic cells (IIFCs) is not fully supported by the presented data. The authors' snRNAseq datasets (Figure 1d) demonstrate that there are many POSTN+ cells prior to injury, indicating that POSTN+ cells are not specifically induced in response to injury. It has been widely recognized that POSTN is expressed in the periosteum without fracture. This raises a possibility that the main responder of fracture healing is POSTN+ cells, not SSPCs as they postulate. The authors cannot exclude the possibility that Sca1+CD34+ cells are mere bystanders and do not participate in fracture healing.

4. Detailed spatial organization of Sca1+CD34+ cells and POSTN+ cells in the uninjured periosteum with respect to the cambium layer and the fibrous layer is not demonstrated.

5. Interpretation of transplantation experiments in Figure 5 is not straightforward, as the authors did not demonstrate the purity of Prx1Cre-GFP+SCA1+ cells and Prx1Cre-GFP+CD146- cells to pSSPCs and IIFCs, respectively. It is possible that these populations contain much broader cell types beyond SSPCs or IIFCs.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

The authors described cell type mapping was conducted for both WT and fracture types. Through this, unique cell populations specific to fracture conditions were identified. To determine these, the most undifferentiated cells were initially targeted using stemness-related markers and CytoTrace scoring. This led to the identification of SSPC differentiating into fibroblasts. It was observed that the fibroblast cell type significantly increased under fracture conditions, followed by subsequent increases in chondrocytes and osteoblasts.

This study presented the injury-induced fibrogenic cell (IIFC) as a characteristic cell type appearing in the bone regeneration process and proposed that the IIFC is a progenitor undergoing osteochondrogenic differentiation.

This study endeavored to elucidate the role of IIFC through snRNAseq analysis and in vivo observation. However, such validation alone is insufficient to confirm that IIFC is an osteochondrogenic progenitor, and additional data presentation is required.

Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

In this manuscript, the authors explored the transcriptional heterogeneity of the periosteum with single nuclei RNA sequencing. Without prior enrichment of specific populations, this dataset serves as an unbiased representation of the cellular components potentially relevant to bone regeneration. By describing single-cell cluster profiles, the authors characterized over 10 different populations in combined steady state and post-fracture periosteum, including stem cells (SSPC), fibroblast, osteoblast, chondrocyte, immune cells, and so on. Specifically, a developmental trajectory was computationally inferred using the continuum of gene expression to connect SSPC, injury-induced fibrogenic cells (IIFC), chondrocyte, and osteoblast, showcasing the bipotentials of periosteal SSPCs during injury repair. Additional computational pipelines were performed to describe the possible gene regulatory network and the expected pathways involved in bone regeneration. Overall, the authors provided valuable insights into the cell state transitions during bone repair and proposed sets of genes with possible involvements in injury response.

While the highlights of the manuscript are the unbiased characterization of periosteal composition, and the trajectory of SSPC response in bone fracture response, many of the conclusions can be more strongly supported with additional clarifications or extensions of the analysis.

1. As described in the method section, both the steady-state data and full dataset underwent integration before dimensional reduction and clustering. It would be appreciated if the authors could compare the post-integration landscapes of uninjured cells between steady state and full dataset analysis. Specifically, fibroblasts were shown in Figure 1C and 1E, and such annotations did not exist in Figure 2B. Will it be possible that the original 'fibroblasts' were part of the IIFC population?

2. According to Figure 2, immune cells were taking a significant abundance within the dataset, specifically during days 3 & 5 post-fracture. It will be interesting to see the potential roles that immune cells play during bone repair. For example, what are the biological annotations of the immune clusters (B, T, NK, myeloid cells)? Are there any inflammatory genes or related signals unregulated in these immune cells? Do they interact with SSPC or IIFC during the transition?

3. The conclusion of Notch and Wnt signaling in IIFC transition was not sufficiently supported by the analysis presented in the manuscript, which was based on computational inferences. It will be great to add in references supporting these claims or provide experimental validations examining selected members of these pathways.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation