Characterizing cellular heterogeneity in fibrotic hypersensitivity pneumonitis by single-cell transcriptional analysis

Cell Death Discov. 2022 Jan 28;8(1):38. doi: 10.1038/s41420-022-00831-x.


Fibrotic hypersensitivity pneumonitis (FHP) remains one of fatal interstitial pulmonary disease. Comprehensively dissecting the cellular heterogeneity of FHP paves the way for developing general gene therapeutic solutions for FHP. Here, utilizing an integrated strategy based on scRNA-seq, scTCR-seq, and bulk RNA-seq analysis of FHP profiles, we identified ten major cell types and 19 unique subtypes. FHP exhibited higher features of EMT and inflammation-promoting than normal control. In distinct subsets of lung macrophages in FHP, FN1high, PLA2G7high, and MS4A6Ahigh macrophages with predominant M2 phenotype exhibited higher activity of inflammatory responses and para-inflammation than other macrophages. KRT17high basal-like epithelial cells were significantly increased in FHP, and showed higher ability to induce EMT. We identified roles for ACTA2high, COL1A1high, and PLA2G2Ahigh fibroblasts in FHP, which were significantly related to interstitial fibrosis. NK cells and KLRG1+ effector CD8+ T cells had greater activity in inflammation-promoting. Our results provide a comprehensive portrait of cellular heterogeneity in FHP, and highlight the indispensable role of cell subpopulations in shaping the complexity and heterogeneity of FHP. These subpopulations are potentially key players for FHP pathogenesis.