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Differential vulnerability of anterior cingulate cortex cell types to diseases and drugs

Abstract

In psychiatric disorders, mismatches between disease states and therapeutic strategies are highly pronounced, largely because of unanswered questions regarding specific vulnerabilities of different cell types and therapeutic responses. Which cellular events (housekeeping or salient) are most affected? Which cell types succumb first to challenges, and which exhibit the strongest response to drugs? Are these events coordinated between cell types? How does disease and drug effect this coordination? To address these questions, we analyzed single-nucleus-RNAseq (sn-RNAseq) data from the human anterior cingulate cortex—a region involved in many psychiatric disorders. Density index, a metric for quantifying similarities and dissimilarities across functional profiles, was employed to identify common or salient functional themes across cell types. Cell-specific signatures were integrated with existing disease and drug-specific signatures to determine cell-type-specific vulnerabilities, druggabilities, and responsiveness. Clustering of functional profiles revealed cell types jointly participating in these events. SST and VIP interneurons were found to be most vulnerable, whereas pyramidal neurons were least. Overall, the disease state is superficial layer-centric, influences cell-specific salient themes, strongly impacts disinhibitory neurons, and influences astrocyte interaction with a subset of deep-layer pyramidal neurons. In absence of disease, drugs profiles largely recapitulate disease profiles, offering a possible explanation for drug side effects. However, in presence of disease, drug activities, are deep layer-centric and involve activating a distinct subset of deep-layer pyramidal neurons to circumvent the disease state’s disinhibitory circuit malfunction. These findings demonstrate a novel application of sn-RNAseq data to explain drug and disease action at a systems level.

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Fig. 1: Characterization of ACC cell-types.
Fig. 2: Functional analysis of cell types in the control state.
Fig. 3: Distribution of CNS disorders by cell-specific enrichment.
Fig. 4: Cell type-specific functional state comparison between control and disease states.
Fig. 5: Functional clustering of cell types in control, disease, druggable, and actionable state.

Data availability

All data are available in the main text or the Supplementary Materials.

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Funding

MAS is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health predoctoral fellowship F31MH125541.

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RS and MAS conceptualized the study and together wrote the manuscript. SSC participated in formulating the density score. XZ, VR, and REM, participated with RS and MAS in developing drug-based ontology. CK, MS, and JPH participated with RS and MAS in developing disease-based ontology. All authors participated in writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rammohan Shukla.

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Smail, M.A., Chandrasena, S.S., Zhang, X. et al. Differential vulnerability of anterior cingulate cortex cell types to diseases and drugs. Mol Psychiatry (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-022-01657-w

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