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Single-Cell Transcriptomes Reveal a Complex Cellular Landscape in the Middle Ear and Differential Capacities for Acute Response to Infection.

  • Author(s): Ryan, Allen F;
  • Nasamran, Chanond A;
  • Pak, Kwang;
  • Draf, Clara;
  • Fisch, Kathleen M;
  • Webster, Nicholas;
  • Kurabi, Arwa
  • et al.

Single-cell transcriptomics was used to profile cells of the normal murine middle ear. Clustering analysis of 6770 transcriptomes identified 17 cell clusters corresponding to distinct cell types: five epithelial, three stromal, three lymphocyte, two monocyte, two endothelial, one pericyte and one melanocyte cluster. Within some clusters, cell subtypes were identified. While many corresponded to those cell types known from prior studies, several novel types or subtypes were noted. The results indicate unexpected cellular diversity within the resting middle ear mucosa. The resolution of uncomplicated, acute, otitis media is too rapid for cognate immunity to play a major role. Thus innate immunity is likely responsible for normal recovery from middle ear infection. The need for rapid response to pathogens suggests that innate immune genes may be constitutively expressed by middle ear cells. We therefore assessed expression of innate immune genes across all cell types, to evaluate potential for rapid responses to middle ear infection. Resident monocytes/macrophages expressed the most such genes, including pathogen receptors, cytokines, chemokines and chemokine receptors. Other cell types displayed distinct innate immune gene profiles. Epithelial cells preferentially expressed pathogen receptors, bactericidal peptides and mucins. Stromal and endothelial cells expressed pathogen receptors. Pericytes expressed pro-inflammatory cytokines. Lymphocytes expressed chemokine receptors and antimicrobials. The results suggest that tissue monocytes, including macrophages, are the master regulators of the immediate middle ear response to infection, but that virtually all cell types act in concert to mount a defense against pathogens.

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