Molecular taxonomy of human ocular outflow tissues defined by single-cell transcriptomics

Gaurang Patel, Wen Fury, Hua Yang, Maria Gomez-Caraballo, Yu Bai, Tao Yang, Christina Adler, Yi Wei, Min Ni, Heather Schmitt, Ying Hu, George Yancopoulos, W. Daniel Stamer, Carmelo Romano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The conventional outflow pathway is a complex tissue responsible for maintaining intraocular pressure (IOP) homeostasis. The coordinated effort of multiple cells with differing responsibilities ensures healthy outflow function and IOP maintenance. Dysfunction of one or more resident cell types results in ocular hypertension and risk for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. In this study, single-cell RNA sequencing was performed to generate a comprehensive cell atlas of human conventional outflow tissues. We obtained expression profiles of 17,757 genes from 8,758 cells from eight eyes of human donors representing the outflow cell transcriptome. Upon clustering analysis, 12 distinct cell types were identified, and region-specific expression of candidate genes was mapped in human tissues. Significantly, we identified two distinct expression patterns (myofibroblast- and fibroblast-like) from cells located in the trabecular meshwork (TM), the primary structural component of the conventional outflow pathway. We also located Schwann cell and macrophage signatures in the TM. The second primary component structure, Schlemm’s canal, displayed a unique combination of lymphatic/blood vascular gene expression. Other expression clusters corresponded to cells from neighboring tissues, predominantly in the ciliary muscle/scleral spur, which together correspond to the uveoscleral outflow pathway. Importantly, the utility of our atlas was demonstrated by mapping glaucoma-relevant genes to outflow cell clusters. Our study provides a comprehensive molecular and cellular classification of conventional and unconventional outflow pathway structures responsible for IOP homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12856-12867
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 9 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior chamber
  • Glaucoma
  • Outflow facility
  • Single-cell transcriptomics
  • Trabecular meshwork

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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