Enriched Single-Nucleus RNA-Sequencing Reveals Unique Attributes of Distal Convoluted Tubule Cells

Xiao Tong Su, Jeremiah V. Reyes, Anne E. Lackey, Hasan Demirci, Sebastian Bachmann, Yujiro Maeoka, Ryan J. Cornelius, James A. McCormick, Chao Ling Yang, Hyun Jun Jung, Paul A. Welling, Jonathan W. Nelson, David H. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Significance StatementHigh-resolution single-nucleus RNA-sequencing data indicate a clear separation between primary sites of calcium and magnesium handling within distal convoluted tubule (DCT). Both DCT1 and DCT2 express Slc12a3, but these subsegments serve distinctive functions, with more abundant magnesium-handling genes along DCT1 and more calcium-handling genes along DCT2. The data also provide insight into the plasticity of the distal nephron-collecting duct junction, formed from cells of separate embryonic origins. By focusing/changing gradients of gene expression, the DCT can morph into different physiological cell states on demand.BackgroundThe distal convoluted tubule (DCT) comprises two subsegments, DCT1 and DCT2, with different functional and molecular characteristics. The functional and molecular distinction between these segments, however, has been controversial.MethodsTo understand the heterogeneity within the DCT population with better clarity, we enriched for DCT nuclei by using a mouse line combining "Isolation of Nuclei Tagged in specific Cell Types" and sodium chloride cotransporter-driven inducible Cre recombinase. We sorted the fluorescently labeled DCT nuclei using Fluorescence-Activated Nucleus Sorting and performed single-nucleus transcriptomics.ResultsAmong 25,183 DCT cells, 75% were from DCT1 and 25% were from DCT2. In addition, there was a small population (<1%) enriched in proliferation-related genes, such as Top2a, Cenpp, and Mki67. Although both DCT1 and DCT2 expressed sodium chloride cotransporter, magnesium transport genes were predominantly expressed along DCT1, whereas calcium, electrogenic sodium, and potassium transport genes were more abundant along DCT2. The transition between these two segments was gradual, with a transitional zone in which DCT1 and DCT2 cells were interspersed. The expression of the homeobox genes by DCT cells suggests that they develop along different trajectories.ConclusionsTranscriptomic analysis of an enriched rare cell population using a genetically targeted approach clarifies the function and classification of distal cells. The DCT segment is short, can be separated into two subsegments that serve distinct functions, and is speculated to derive from different origins during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-440
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • distal tubule
  • ion transport
  • kidney tubule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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