Nonclassical Monocytes Sense Hypoxia, Regulate Pulmonary Vascular Remodeling, and Promote Pulmonary Hypertension

J Immunol. 2020 Mar 15;204(6):1474-1485. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1900239. Epub 2020 Jan 29.


An increasing body of evidence suggests that bone marrow-derived myeloid cells play a critical role in the pathophysiology of pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, the true requirement for myeloid cells in PH development has not been demonstrated, and a specific disease-promoting myeloid cell population has not been identified. Using bone marrow chimeras, lineage labeling, and proliferation studies, we determined that, in murine hypoxia-induced PH, Ly6Clo nonclassical monocytes are recruited to small pulmonary arteries and differentiate into pulmonary interstitial macrophages. Accumulation of these nonclassical monocyte-derived pulmonary interstitial macrophages around pulmonary vasculature is associated with increased muscularization of small pulmonary arteries and disease severity. To determine if the sensing of hypoxia by nonclassical monocytes contributes to the development of PH, mice lacking expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α in the Ly6Clo monocyte lineage were exposed to hypoxia. In these mice, vascular remodeling and PH severity were significantly reduced. Transcriptome analyses suggest that the Ly6Clo monocyte lineage regulates PH through complement, phagocytosis, Ag presentation, and chemokine/cytokine pathways. Consistent with these murine findings, relative to controls, lungs from pulmonary arterial hypertension patients displayed a significant increase in the frequency of nonclassical monocytes. Taken together, these findings show that, in response to hypoxia, nonclassical monocytes in the lung sense hypoxia, infiltrate small pulmonary arteries, and promote vascular remodeling and development of PH. Our results demonstrate that myeloid cells, specifically cells of the nonclassical monocyte lineage, play a direct role in the pathogenesis of PH.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Ly / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / immunology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / pathology
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / surgery
  • Hypoxia / complications*
  • Hypoxia / immunology
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Lung / blood supply
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Artery / cytology
  • Pulmonary Artery / immunology
  • Pulmonary Artery / pathology
  • Transplantation Chimera / immunology
  • Vascular Remodeling / genetics
  • Vascular Remodeling / immunology*


  • Antigens, Ly
  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Ly-6C antigen, mouse