K Achim, N Eling, HM Vergara, PY Bertucci, J Musser, P Vopalensky, T Brunet, P Collier, V Benes, JC Marioni, D Arendt
Mol Biol Evol
Animal bodies comprise diverse arrays of cells. To characterize cellular identities across an entire body, we have compared the transcriptomes of single cells randomly picked from dissociated whole larvae of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii. We identify five transcriptionally distinct groups of differentiated cells, each expressing a unique set of transcription factors and effector genes that implement cellular phenotypes. Spatial mapping of cells into a cellular expression atlas, and wholemount in situ hybridization of group-specific genes reveals spatially coherent transcriptional domains in the larval body, comprising, for example, apical sensory-neurosecretory cells versus neural/epidermal surface cells. These domains represent new, basic subdivisions of the annelid body based entirely on differential gene expression, and are composed of multiple, transcriptionally similar cell types. They do not represent clonal domains, as revealed by developmental lineage analysis. We propose that the transcriptional domains that subdivide the annelid larval body represent families of related cell types that have arisen by evolutionary diversification. Their possible evolutionary conservation makes them a promising tool for evo-devo research.