Stem cells of the adult lung: their development and role in homeostasis, regeneration, and disease

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. Jan-Feb 2013;2(1):131-48. doi: 10.1002/wdev.58. Epub 2012 May 3.


The lung has vital functions in gas exchange and immune defense. To fulfill these functions the cellular composition and complex three-dimensional organization of the organ must be maintained for a lifetime. Cell turnover in the adult lung is normally low. However, in response to cellular injury by agents such as infection, toxic compounds, and irradiation there is rapid proliferation and differentiation of endogenous stem and progenitor cells to repair and regenerate the damaged tissue. In the mouse, different populations of epithelial progenitor cells have been identified in different regions of the respiratory system: basal cells in the proximal tracheobronchial region and submucosal glands, and secretory cells in the conducting airways and bronchioalveolar duct junction. The identification of the long-term stem cells in the alveolar region is still under debate, and little is known about resident stem and progenitor cells for the many mesodermal populations. Within this framework information is provided about the origin of lung progenitor cells during development, the microenvironment in which they reside, the experimental injury and repair systems used to promote their regenerative response, and some of the mechanisms regulating their behavior. WIREs Dev Biol 2013, 2:131-148. doi: 10.1002/wdev.58 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / cytology*
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • Wound Healing*