Human bronchial fibroblasts exhibit a mesenchymal stem cell phenotype and multilineage differentiating potentialities

Lab Invest. 2005 Aug;85(8):962-71. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700300.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells able to differentiate along different pathways including chondrogenic, osteogenic and adipogenic lineages. MSCs with a fibroblast-like morphology have been identified in human fetal lung. However, their frequency and characterization in human adult lung have not been yet evaluated. Therefore, we analyzed the mesenchymal phenotype and differentiation ability of cultured human adult bronchial fibroblast-like cells (Br) in comparison with those of mesenchymal cell progenitors isolated from fetal lung (ICIG7) and adult bone marrow (BM212) tissues. Surface immunophenotyping by flow cytometry revealed a similar expression pattern of antigens characteristic of marrow-derived MSCs, including CD34 (-), CD45 (-), CD90/Thy-1 (+), CD73/SH3, SH4 (+), CD105/SH2 (+) and CD166/ALCAM (+) in Br, ICIG7 and BM212 cells. There was one exception, STRO-1 antigen, which was only weakly expressed in Br cells. Analysis of cytoskeleton and matrix composition by immunostaining showed that lung and marrow-derived cells homogeneously expressed vimentin and nestin proteins in intermediate filaments while they were all devoid of epithelial cytokeratins. Additionally, alpha-smooth muscle actin was also present in microfilaments of a low number of cells. All cell types predominantly produced collagen and fibronectin extracellular matrix as evidenced by staining with the monoclonal antibodies to collagen prolyl 4-hydroxylase and fibronectin isoforms containing the extradomain (ED)-A together with ED-B in ICIG7 cells. Br cells similarly to fetal lung and marrow fibroblasts were able to differentiate along the three adipogenic, osteogenic and chondrogenic mesenchymal pathways when cultured under appropriate inducible conditions. Altogether, these data indicate that MSCs are present in human adult lung. They may be actively involved in lung tissue repair under physiological and pathological circumstances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Bronchi / cytology*
  • Bronchi / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage*
  • DNA Primers
  • Fetus / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / chemistry*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / immunology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA Primers