Identification of immune and non-immune cells in regenerating axolotl limbs by single-cell sequencing

A. K. Rodgers, J. J. Smith, S. R. Voss

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Immune cells are known to be critical for successful limb regeneration in the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), but many details regarding their identity, behavior, and function are yet to be resolved. We isolated peripheral leukocytes from the blood of adult axolotls and then created two samples for single-cell sequencing: 1) peripheral leukocytes (N = 7889) and 2) peripheral leukocytes with presumptive macrophages from the intraperitoneal cavity (N = 4998). Using k-means clustering, we identified 6 cell populations from each sample that presented gene expression patterns indicative of erythrocyte, thrombocyte, neutrophil, B-cell, T-cell, and myeloid cell populations. A seventh, presumptive macrophage cell population was identified uniquely from sample 2. We then isolated cells from amputated axolotl limbs at 1 and 6 days post-amputation (DPA) and performed single cell sequencing (N = 8272 and 9906 cells respectively) to identify immune and non-immune cell populations. Using k-means clustering, we identified 8 cell populations overall, with the majority of cells expressing erythrocyte-specific genes. Even though erythrocytes predominated, we used an unbiased approach to identify infiltrating neutrophil, macrophage, and lymphocyte populations at both time points. Additionally, populations expressing genes for epidermal cells, fibroblast-like cells, and endothelial cells were also identified. Consistent with results from previous experimental studies, neutrophils were more abundant at 1 DPA than 6 DPA, while macrophages and non-immune cells exhibited inverse abundance patterns. Of note, we identified a small population of fibroblast-like cells at 1 DPA that was represented by considerably more cells at 6 DPA. We hypothesize that these are early progenitor cells that give rise to the blastema. The enriched gene sets from our work will aid future single-cell investigations of immune cell diversity and function during axolotl limb regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112149
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors


  • 10X genomics
  • Axolotl
  • Gene expression
  • Limb regeneration
  • Single-cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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