Single cell transcriptomics identifies a unique adipose lineage cell population that regulates bone marrow environment

Leilei Zhong, Lutian Yao, Robert J. Tower, Yulong Wei, Zhen Miao, Jihwan Park, Rojesh Shrestha, Luqiang Wang, Wei Yu, Nicholas Holdreith, Xiaobin Huang, Yejia Zhang, Wei Tong, Yanqing Gong, Jaimo Ahn, Katalin Susztak, Nathaniel Dyment, Mingyao Li, Fanxin Long, Chider ChenPatrick Seale, Ling Qin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Bone marrow mesenchymal lineage cells are a heterogeneous cell population involved in bone homeostasis and diseases such as osteoporosis. While it is long postulated that they originate from mesenchymal stem cells, the true identity of progenitors and their in vivo bifurcated differentiation routes into osteoblasts and adipocytes remain poorly understood. Here, by employing large scale single cell transcriptome analysis, we computationally defined mesenchymal progenitors at different stages and delineated their bi-lineage differentiation paths in young, adult and aging mice. One identified subpopulation is a unique cell type that expresses adipocyte markers but contains no lipid droplets. As non-proliferative precursors for adipocytes, they exist abundantly as pericytes and stromal cells that form a ubiquitous 3D network inside the marrow cavity. Functionally they play critical roles in maintaining marrow vasculature and suppressing bone formation. Therefore, we name them marrow adipogenic lineage precursors (MALPs) and conclude that they are a new component of marrow adipose tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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