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Diverse homeostatic and immunomodulatory roles of immune cells in the developing mouse lung revealed at single cell resolution

By Racquel Domingo-Gonzales, Fabio Zanini, Xibing Che, Min Liu, Robert C. Jones, Michael A. Swift, Stephen R. Quake, David N Cornfield, Cristina M. Alvira

Posted 11 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.10.942359 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.56890)

At birth, the lungs experience a sudden transition from a pathogen-free, hypoxic, fluid-filled environment to a pathogen-rich, rhythmically distended air-liquid interface. While many studies focus on adult tissue, the heterogeneity of immune cells in the perinatal lung remains unexplored. Here, we combine single cell transcriptomics with in situ hybridization to present an atlas of the murine lung immune compartment during a critical period of lung development. We show that the late embryonic lung is dominated by specialized proliferative macrophages with a surprising physical interaction with the developing vasculature. These macrophages disappear after birth and are replaced by a complex and dynamic mixture of macrophage subtypes, dendritic cells, granulocytes, and lymphocytes. Detailed characterization of macrophage diversity revealed a precise orchestration of five distinct subpopulations across postnatal development to fill context-specific functions in tissue remodeling, angiogenesis, and immunity. These data both broaden the putative roles for immune cells in the developing lung and provide a framework for understanding how external insults alter immune cell phenotype during a period of rapid lung growth and heightened vulnerability.

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