1. Department of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200011, China.
2. Department of Neurosurgery, Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200011, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.
Rationale: Wound healing is among the most complicated physiological processes and requires the synchronization of various cell types with distinct roles to re-establish the condition of the original skin. Patients affected by peripheral neuropathies often experience failure to heal. Loss of Schwann cells (SCs), a crucial population of peripheral nervous system cells in skin, may contribute to chronic wounds. However, the role of SCs in wound healing are poorly understood.
Methods: The activity of SCs was investigated by using a cell atlas of the wound healing process, which was generated by integrating single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) libraries covering different states of mouse back skin. The results of in silico analysis were validated by in vitro cell culture and in vivo mouse model. Selective inhibitors and conditional RNAi by virus transfection were utilized to investigate the role of SCs in wound healing. Findings from mouse experiments were further verified in scRNA-seq analysis of diabetic patients.
Results: Our in silico analysis revealed the heterogeneous cellular components of skin and the dynamic interactions of neural crest derived cells (NCs) with other cell types. We found that SCs dedifferentiated at an early stage of wound repair with upregulated Wnt signaling. We also identified dedifferentiated SC (dSC) defect in diabetic wounds in both mouse and human. Wnt inhibition at the wound site repressed SC dedifferentiation, leading to defective repair. Furthermore, dSCs derived TGF-β3, which is context-dependent, promoted the migration of fibroblasts and keratinocytes. Moreover, TGF-β3 supplementation enhanced the healing of chronic wounds in diabetic mice with impaired SCs.
Conclusion: Our study thus advances the understanding of the roles of neural-derived cells in skin regeneration and suggests a potential therapeutic strategy for wound healing disorders.
Keywords: Single-cell transcriptome, skin, Schwann cells, wound repair, TGF-β