Prenatal origins of human intrapulmonary arteries: formation and smooth muscle maturation

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2000 Aug;23(2):194-203. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.23.2.3975.


Recent studies on the morphogenesis of the pulmonary arteries have focused on nonhuman species such as the chick and the mouse. Using immunohistochemical techniques, we have studied 16 lungs from human embryos and fetuses from 28 d of gestation to newborn, using serial sections stained with a panel of antibodies specific for endothelium, smooth muscle, and extracellular matrix proteins. Cell replication was also assessed. Serial reconstruction showed a continuity of circulation between the heart and the capillary plexus from at least 38 d of gestation. The intrapulmonary arteries appeared to be derived from a continuous expansion of the primary capillary plexus that is from within the mesenchyme, by vasculogenesis. The arteries formed by continuous coalescence of endothelial tubes alongside the newly formed airway. Findings were consistent with the pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells being derived from three sites in a temporally distinct sequence: the earliest from the bronchial smooth muscle, later from the mesenchyme surrounding the arteries, and last from the endothelial cells. Despite their different origins, all smooth muscle cells followed the same sequence of expression of smooth muscle-specific cytoskeletal proteins with increasing age. The order of appearance of these maturing proteins was from the subendothelial cells outward across the vessel wall and from hilum to periphery. The airways would seem to act as a template for pulmonary artery development. This study provides a framework for studying the signaling mechanisms controlling the various aspects of lung development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • Calmodulin-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans / analysis
  • Desmin / analysis
  • Fetus
  • Fibronectins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / chemistry*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / embryology
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / analysis
  • Pulmonary Artery / embryology*
  • Tenascin / analysis
  • Versicans


  • Actins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Calmodulin-Binding Proteins
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Desmin
  • Fibronectins
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Tenascin
  • VCAN protein, human
  • Vcan protein, mouse
  • calponin
  • Versicans