Single-cell RNA-sequencing reveals a distinct population of proglucagon-expressing cells specific to the mouse upper small intestine
Recent studies reveal complex patterns of hormone coexpression within enteroendocrine cells (EECs), contrary to the traditional view that gut hormones are expressed individually in EECs. Moreover, different hormones have been found in separate subcellular vesicles. However, detailed analysis of relative expression of multiple hormones has not been made. Subcellular studies have been confined to peptide hormones, and have not included the indolamine 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) or the neuroendocrine protein chromogranin A (CgA). In the present work, coexpression of 5-HT, CgA, secretin, cholecystokinin (CCK), ghrelin, and glucagonlike peptide (GLP)-1 in mouse duodenum was quantified at a cellular and subcellular level by semiautomated cell counting and quantitative vesicle measurements. We investigated whether relative numbers of cells with colocalized hormones analyzed at a cell level matched the numbers revealed by examination of individual storage vesicles within cells. CgA and 5-HT were frequently expressed in EECs that contained combinations of GLP-1, ghrelin, secretin, and CCK. Separate subcellular stores of 5-HT, CgA, secretin, CCK, ghrelin, and GLP-1 were identified. In some cases, high-resolution analysis revealed small numbers of immunoreactive vesicles in cells dominated by a different hormone. Thus the observed incidence of cells with colocalized hormones is greater when analyzed at a subcellular, compared with a cellular, level. Subcellular analysis also showed that relative numbers of vesicles differ considerably between cells. Thus separate packaging of hormones that are colocalized is a general feature of EECs, and EECs exhibit substantial heterogeneity, including the colocalization of hormones that were formerly thought to be in cells of different lineages.