Time-resolved single-cell RNAseq profiling identifies a novel Fabp5+ subpopulation of inflammatory myeloid cells with delayed cytotoxic profile in chronic spinal cord injury.


Traumatic spinal cord injuries (SCI) are a group of highly debilitating pathologies affecting thousands annually, and adversely affecting quality of life. Currently, no fully restorative therapies exist, and SCI still results in significant personal, societal and financial burdens. Inflammation plays a major role in the evolution of SCI, with myeloid cells, including bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMs) and microglia (MG) being primary drivers of both early secondary pathogenesis and delayed wound healing events. The precise role of myeloid cell subsets is unclear as upon crossing the blood-spinal cord barrier, infiltrating bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMs) may take on the morphology of resident microglia, and upregulate canonical microglia markers, thus making the two populations difficult to distinguish. Here, we used time-resolved scRNAseq and transgenic fate-mapping to chart the transcriptional profiles of tissue-resident and -infiltrating myeloid cells in a mouse model of thoracic contusion SCI. Our work identifies a novel subpopulation of foam cell-like inflammatory myeloid cells with increased expression of Fatty Acid Binding Protein 5 (Fabp5) and comprise both tissue-resident and -infiltrating cells. Fabp5+ inflammatory myeloid cells display a delayed cytotoxic profile that is predominant at the lesion epicentre and extends into the chronic phase of SCI.