Monocytes are circulating, short-lived mononuclear phagocytes, which in mice and man comprise two main subpopulations. Murine Ly6C+ monocytes display developmental plasticity and are recruited to complement tissue-resident macrophages and dendritic cells on demand. Murine vascular Ly6C− monocytes patrol the endothelium, act as scavengers, and support vessel wall repair. Here we characterized population and single cell transcriptomes, as well as enhancer and promoter landscapes of the murine monocyte compartment. Single cell RNA-seq and transplantation experiments confirmed homeostatic default differentiation of Ly6C+ into Ly6C− monocytes. The main two subsets were homogeneous, but linked by a more heterogeneous differentiation intermediate. We show that monocyte differentiation occurred through de novo enhancer establishment and activation of pre-established (poised) enhancers. Generation of Ly6C− monocytes involved induction of the transcription factor C/EBPβ and C/EBPβ-deficient mice lacked Ly6C− monocytes. Mechanistically, C/EBPβ bound the Nr4a1 promoter and controlled expression of this established monocyte survival factor.
Monocytes are circulating, short-lived blood cells. Here, Mildner et al. (2017) use transcriptome and epigenome profiling to study murine monocyte identities and subset interrelations. They highlight the critical role of C/EBPβ in monocyte conversion and reveal that while Ly6C+ and Ly6C− monocytes are homogeneous in steady state, Ly6Cint cells display heterogeneity.