While pulmonary endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) hold promise for cell-based therapies for neonatal pulmonary disorders, whether EPCs can be derived from pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) remains unknown.
To investigate heterogeneity of pulmonary EPCs and derive functional EPCs from pluripotent ESCs.
Single cell RNA sequencing of neonatal human and mouse lung was used to identify the heterogeneity of pulmonary EPCs. CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing was used to genetically label and purify mouse pulmonary EPCs. Functional properties of the EPCs were assessed after cell transplantation into neonatal mice with S52F Foxf1 mutation, a mouse model of alveolar capillary dysplasia with misalignment of pulmonary veins (ACDMPV). Interspecies mouse-rat chimeras were produced through blastocyst complementation to generate EPCs from pluripotent ESCs for cell therapy in ACDMPV mice.
We identified a unique population of EPCs, FOXF1+cKIT+ EPCs, as a subset of recently described general capillary cells (gCAPs) expressing SMAD7, ZBTB20, NFIA, DLL4, but lacking mature arterial, venous and lymphatic markers. FOXF1+cKIT+ gCAPs are reduced in ACDMPV and their transcriptomic signature is conserved in mouse and human lungs. After cell transplantation into the neonatal circulation of ACDMPV mice, FOXF1+cKIT+ gCAPs engraft into the pulmonary vasculature, stimulate angiogenesis, improve oxygenation and prevent alveolar simplification. FOXF1+cKIT+ gCAPs, produced from ESCs in interspecies chimeras, are fully competent to stimulate neonatal lung angiogenesis and alveolarization in ACDMPV mice.
Cell-based therapy using donor or ESC/iPSC-derived FOXF1+cKIT+ endothelial progenitors may be considered for treatment of human ACDMPV.