Single-cell atlas of the aging mouse colon.
We performed massive single-cell sequencing in the aging mouse colonic epithelium and immune cells. We identified novel compartment-specific markers as well as dramatic aging-associated changes in cell composition and signaling pathways, including a shift from absorptive to secretory epithelial cells, depletion of naive lymphocytes, and induction of eIF2 signaling. Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of death within the western world, incidence of which increases with age. The colonic epithelium is a rapidly renewing tissue, tasked with water and nutrient absorption, as well as hosting intestinal microbes. The colonic submucosa is populated with immune cells interacting with and regulating the epithelial cells. However, it is unknown whether compartment-specific changes occur during aging and what impact this would cause. We show that both epithelial and immune cells differ significantly between colonic compartments and experience significant age-related changes in mice. We found a shift in the absorptive-secretory cell balance, possibly linked to age-associated intestinal disturbances, such as malabsorption. We demonstrate marked changes in aging immune cells: population shifts and interactions with epithelial cells, linking cytokines (Ifn-γ, Il1B) with the aging of colonic epithelium. Our results provide new insights into the normal and age-associated states of the colon.