PLoS Genet. 2022 Sep 8;18(9):e1010392. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010392. Online ahead of print.
Although spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disease caused by the loss of survival of motor neuron (SMN) proteins, there is growing evidence that non-neuronal cells play important roles in SMA pathogenesis. However, transcriptome alterations occurring at the single-cell level in SMA spinal cord remain unknown, preventing us from fully comprehending the role of specific cells. Here, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing of the spinal cord of a severe SMA mouse model, and identified ten cell types as well as their differentially expressed genes. Using CellChat, we found that cellular communication between different cell types in the spinal cord of SMA mice was significantly reduced. A dimensionality reduction analysis revealed 29 cell subtypes and their differentially expressed gene. A subpopulation of vascular fibroblasts showed the most significant change in the SMA spinal cord at the single-cell level. This subpopulation was drastically reduced, possibly causing vascular defects and resulting in widespread protein synthesis and energy metabolism reductions in SMA mice. This study reveals for the first time a single-cell atlas of the spinal cord of mice with severe SMA, and sheds new light on the pathogenesis of SMA.