Single-cell RNA-sequencing identifies infrapatellar fat pad macrophage polarization in acute synovitis/fat pad fibrosis and cell therapy

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The pathogenesis and progression of knee inflammatory pathologies is modulated partly by residing macrophages in the infrapatellar fat pad (IFP), thus, macrophage polarization towards pro-inflammatory (M1) or anti-inflammatory (M2) phenotypes is important in joint disease pathologies. Alteration of M1/M2 balance contributes to the initiation and progression of joint inflammation and can be potentially altered with mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy. In an acute synovial/IFP inflammation rat model a single intra-articular injection of IFP-MSC was performed, having as controls (1) diseased rats not receiving IFP-MSC and (2) non-diseased rats. After 4 days, cell specific transcriptional profiling via single-cell RNA-sequencing was performed on isolated IFP tissue from each group. Eight transcriptomically distinct cell populations were identified within the IFP across all three treatment groups with a noted difference in the proportion of myeloid cells across the groups. Largely myeloid cells consisted of macrophages (>90%); one M1 sub-cluster highly expressing pro-inflammatory markers and two M2 sub-clusters with one of them expressing higher levels of canonical M2 markers. Notably, the diseased samples (11.9%) had the lowest proportion of cells expressing M2 markers relative to healthy (14.8%) and MSC treated (19.4%) samples. These results suggest a phenotypic polarization of IFP macrophages towards the pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype in an acute model of inflammation, which are alleviated by IFP-MSC therapy inducing a switch towards an alternate M2 status. Understanding the IFP cellular heterogeneity and associated transcriptional programs may offer insights into novel therapeutic strategies for disabling joint disease pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Inflammation
  • Infrapatellar fat pad
  • Macrophages
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Single-cell RNA-sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering


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