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    Cadmium is the most prevalent form of heavy metal contaminant globally and its exposure rises serious health concern. Chronic exposure to cadmium causes immune disturbances. However, few studies have addressed how it affects circulating immune cells, one of the most essential elements for the host defense system, at both population and molecular level. Therefore, this is the first single-cell transcriptomic analysis of the response of the human circulating immune system to plasma cadmium level. We conducted a cross-sectional study in Hunan province, which has the highest level of cadmium land contamination in China. A total of 3283 individuals were eligible for analyzing the association between plasma cadmium levels and the monocyte counts and its subgroups. Another 780 individuals were assigned for validation. Thirty propensity-matched individuals without chronic disease from the lowest- and highest-quartile groups according to serum cadmium levels were selected for single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and flow cytometry analyses. Moreover, the monocyte phenotypic alterations in the heavy metal-exposed population were validated with a cecal ligation and puncture sepsis mouse model. From August 2016 to July 2017, we conducted a cross-sectional study to identify phenotypic alterations in peripheral immune cells in cadmium polluted areas in China. Monocyte percentages were negatively associated with plasma cadmium levels in multivariable linear regression analysis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell scRNA-seq revealed that the CD14+ monocyte subset was dramatically reduced in the highest-quartile cadmium-exposed group. Moreover, we assessed different hallmarks of immune cell dysfunction-such as host defense capability, apoptotic signaling, cellular diversity and malignant gene expression in monocytes. Importantly, cadmium induced phenotypic alterations in the immune system were validated in the cecal ligation and puncture sepsis mouse model, in which chronic exposure to cadmium not only increased the death rate but also decreased monocyte numbers and the ability to clear bacterial infections. This transcriptomic analysis provides molecular information about how the most important hallmarks of immune cell dysfunction are affected by plasma cadmium level. The significant phenotypic alterations in monocytes serving as early indicators of increased susceptibility to infectious and malignant diseases. Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


    Yao Lu, Junru Wu, Wenduo Gu, Zhijun Huang, Zhihao Shu, Miao Huang, Jingyuan Chen, Mengli Zhou, Yuanyuan Bai, Xiang Chen, Yi Xiao, Minxue Shen, Dan Luo, Qihong Deng, Liyuan Chai, Meian He, Jicheng Gong, Hong Yuan, Qingbo Xu, Jingjing Cai. Single-cell transcriptomics uncovers phenotypic alterations in the monocytes in a Chinese population with chronic cadmium exposure. Ecotoxicology and environmental safety. 2021 Mar 15;211:111881

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    PMID: 33444878

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