Cellular and molecular profiles of larval and adult Xenopus corneal epithelia resolved at the single-cell level

Surabhi Sonam, Sushant Bangru, Kimberly J. Perry, Ullas V. Chembazhi, Auinash Kalsotra, Jonathan J. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Corneal Epithelial Stem Cells (CESCs) and their proliferative progeny, the Transit Amplifying Cells (TACs), are responsible for homeostasis and maintaining corneal transparency. Owing to our limited knowledge of cell fates and gene activity within the cornea, the search for unique markers to identify and isolate these cells remains crucial for ocular surface reconstruction. We performed single-cell RNA sequencing of corneal cells from larval and adult stages of Xenopus. Our results indicate that as the cornea develops and matures, there is an increase in cellular diversity, which is accompanied by a substantial shift in transcriptional profile, gene regulatory network and cell-cell communication dynamics. Our data also reveals several novel genes expressed in corneal cells and changes in gene expression during corneal differentiation at both developmental time-points. Importantly, we identify specific basal cell clusters in both the larval and adult cornea that comprise a relatively undifferentiated cell type and express distinct stem cell markers, which we propose are the putative larval and adult CESCs, respectively. This study offers a detailed atlas of single-cell transcriptomes in the frog cornea. In the future, this work will be useful to elucidate the function of novel genes in corneal epithelial homeostasis, wound healing and regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-30
Number of pages18
JournalDevelopmental Biology
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Biomarkers
  • Cornea
  • Corneal epithelial stem cells
  • Single-cell RNA-Sequencing
  • Xenopus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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