Cell atlas of the Atlantic salmon spleen reveals immune cell heterogeneity and cell-specific responses to bacterial infection



Sun J, Ruiz Daniels R, Balic A, Andresen AM, Bjørgen H, Dobie R, Henderson NC, Koppang EO, Martin SA, Fosse JH, Taylor RS & Macqueen DJ (2024) Cell atlas of the Atlantic salmon spleen reveals immune cell heterogeneity and cell-specific responses to bacterial infection. Fish & Shellfish Immunology, 145, Art. No.: 109358.

The spleen is a conserved secondary lymphoid organ that emerged in parallel to adaptive immunity in early jawed vertebrates. Recent studies have applied single cell transcriptomics to reveal the cellular composition of spleen in several species, cataloguing diverse immune cell types and subpopulations. In this study, 51,119 spleen nuclei transcriptomes were comprehensively investigated in the commercially important teleost Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.), contrasting control animals with those challenged with the bacterial pathogen Aeromonas salmonicida. We identified clusters of nuclei representing the expected major cell types, namely T cells, B cells, natural killer-like cells, granulocytes, mononuclear phagocytes, endothelial cells, mesenchymal cells, erythrocytes and thrombocytes. We discovered heterogeneity within several immune lineages, providing evidence for resident macrophages and melanomacrophages, infiltrating monocytes, several candidate dendritic cell subpopulations, and B cells at distinct stages of differentiation, including plasma cells and an igt + subset. We provide evidence for twelve candidate T cell subsets, including cd4+ T helper and regulatory T cells, one cd8+ subset, three γδT subsets, and populations double negative for cd4 and cd8. The number of genes showing differential expression during the early stages of Aeromonas infection was highly variable across immune cell types, with the largest changes observed in macrophages and infiltrating monocytes, followed by resting mature B cells. Our analysis provides evidence for a local inflammatory response to infection alongside B cell maturation in the spleen, and upregulation of ccr9 genes in igt + B cells, T helper and cd8+ cells, and monocytes, consistent with the recruitment of immune cell populations to the gut to deal with Aeromonas infection. Overall, this study provides a new cell-resolved perspective of the immune actions of Atlantic salmon spleen, highlighting extensive heterogeneity hidden to bulk transcriptomics. We further provide a large catalogue of cell-specific marker genes that can be leveraged to further explore the function and structural organization of the salmonid immune system.

Aquatic Science; Environmental Chemistry; General Medicine

Fish & Shellfish Immunology: Volume 145

Publication date28/02/2024
Date accepted by journal02/01/2024
PublisherElsevier BV
ISSN of series1095-9947

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Dr Rose Ruiz Daniels

Dr Rose Ruiz Daniels

Lecturer in Aquaculture Genomics, Institute of Aquaculture