Single-Cell Transcriptomic Analysis Identifies a Unique Pulmonary Lymphangioleiomyomatosis Cell

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020 Nov 15;202(10):1373-1387. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201912-2445OC.


Rationale: Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a metastatic neoplasm of reproductive-age women associated with mutations in tuberous sclerosis complex genes. LAM causes cystic remodeling of the lung and progressive respiratory failure. The sources and cellular characteristics of LAM cells underlying disease pathogenesis remain elusive.Objectives: Identification and characterization of LAM cells in human lung and uterus using a single-cell approach.Methods: Single-cell and single-nuclei RNA sequencing on LAM (n = 4) and control (n = 7) lungs, immunofluorescence confocal microscopy, ELISA, and aptamer proteomics were used to identify and validate LAMCORE cells and secreted biomarkers, predict cellular origins, and define molecular and cellular networks in LAM.Measurements and Main Results: A unique cell type termed LAMCORE was identified, which was distinct from, but closely related to, lung mesenchymal cells. LAMCORE cells expressing signature genes included known LAM markers such as PMEL, FIGF, CTSK, and MLANA and novel biomarkers validated by aptamer screening, ELISA, and immunofluorescence microscopy. LAM cells in lung and uterus are morphologically indistinguishable and share similar gene expression profiles and biallelic TSC2 mutations, supporting a potential uterine origin for the LAMCORE cell. Effects of LAM on resident pulmonary cell types indicated recruitment and activation of lymphatic endothelial cells.Conclusions: A unique population of LAMCORE cells was identified in lung and uterus of patients with LAM, sharing close transcriptomic identity. LAM cell selective markers, secreted biomarkers, and the predicted cellular molecular features provide new insights into the signaling and transcriptional programs that may serve as diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets to influence the pathogenesis of LAM.

Keywords: lymphangioleiomyomatosis; pulmonary remodeling; single-cell RNA; tuberous sclerosis complex; uterus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / diagnosis*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome / genetics*
  • United States
  • Uterine Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor