Single cell transcriptomic profiling of large intestinal enteroendocrine cells in mice – Identification of selective stimuli for insulin-like peptide-5 and glucagon-like peptide-1 co-expressing cells.


OBJECTIVE: Enteroendocrine cells (EECs) of the large intestine, found scattered in the epithelial layer, are known to express different hormones, with at least partial co-expression of different hormones in the same cell. Here we aimed to categorize colonic EECs and to identify possible targets for selective recruitment of hormones. METHODS: Single cell RNA-sequencing of sorted enteroendocrine cells, using NeuroD1-Cre x Rosa26-EYFP mice, was used to cluster EECs from the colon and rectum according to their transcriptome. G-protein coupled receptors differentially expressed across clusters were identified, and, as a proof of principle, agonists of Agtr1a and Avpr1b were tested as candidate EEC secretagogues in vitro and in vivo. RESULTS: EECs from the large intestine separated into 7 clear clusters, 4 expressing higher levels of Tph1 (enzyme required for serotonin (5-HT) synthesis; enterochromaffin cells), 2 enriched for Gcg (encoding glucagon-like peptide-1, GLP-1, L-cells), and the 7th expressing somatostatin (D-cells). Restricted analysis of L-cells identified 4 L-cell sub-clusters, exhibiting differential expression of Gcg, Pyy (Peptide YY), Nts (neurotensin), Insl5 (insulin-like peptide 5), Cck (cholecystokinin), and Sct (secretin). Expression profiles of L- and enterochromaffin cells revealed the clustering to represent gradients along the crypt-surface (cell maturation) and proximal-distal gut axes. Distal colonic/rectal L-cells differentially expressed Agtr1a and the ligand angiotensin II was shown to selectively increase GLP-1 and PYY release in vitro and GLP-1 in vivo. CONCLUSION: EECs in the large intestine exhibit differential expression gradients along the crypt-surface and proximal-distal axes. Distal L-cells can be differentially stimulated by targeting receptors such as Agtr1a.