Deformation-induced transitional myofibroblasts contribute to compensatory lung growth

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2017 Jan 1;312(1):L79-L88. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00383.2016. Epub 2016 Nov 11.


In many mammals, including humans, removal of one lung (pneumonectomy) results in the compensatory growth of the remaining lung. Compensatory growth involves not only an increase in lung size, but also an increase in the number of alveoli in the peripheral lung; however, the process of compensatory neoalveolarization remains poorly understood. Here, we show that the expression of α-smooth muscle actin (SMA)-a cytoplasmic protein characteristic of myofibroblasts-is induced in the pleura following pneumonectomy. SMA induction appears to be dependent on pleural deformation (stretch) as induction is prevented by plombage or phrenic nerve transection (P < 0.001). Within 3 days of pneumonectomy, the frequency of SMA+ cells in subpleural alveolar ducts was significantly increased (P < 0.01). To determine the functional activity of these SMA+ cells, we isolated regenerating alveolar ducts by laser microdissection and analyzed individual cells using microfluidic single-cell quantitative PCR. Single cells expressing the SMA (Acta2) gene demonstrated significantly greater transcriptional activity than endothelial cells or other discrete cell populations in the alveolar duct (P < 0.05). The transcriptional activity of the Acta2+ cells, including expression of TGF signaling as well as repair-related genes, suggests that these myofibroblast-like cells contribute to compensatory lung growth.

Keywords: compensatory growth; gene expression; lung; myofibroblasts.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Separation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Image Cytometry
  • Lung / growth & development*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / surgery
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myofibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Myofibroblasts / pathology*
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Acta2 protein, mouse
  • Actins