Single-cell transcriptomic atlas of lung microvascular regeneration after targeted endothelial cell ablation

Elife. 2023 Apr 20;12:e80900. doi: 10.7554/eLife.80900.


We sought to define the mechanism underlying lung microvascular regeneration in a model of severe acute lung injury (ALI) induced by selective lung endothelial cell ablation. Intratracheal instillation of DT in transgenic mice expressing human diphtheria toxin (DT) receptor targeted to ECs resulted in ablation of >70% of lung ECs, producing severe ALI with near complete resolution by 7 days. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, eight distinct endothelial clusters were resolved, including alveolar aerocytes (aCap) ECs expressing apelin at baseline and general capillary (gCap) ECs expressing the apelin receptor. At 3 days post-injury, a novel gCap EC population emerged characterized by de novo expression of apelin, together with the stem cell marker, protein C receptor. These stem-like cells transitioned at 5 days to proliferative endothelial progenitor-like cells, expressing apelin receptor together with the pro-proliferative transcription factor, Foxm1, and were responsible for the rapid replenishment of all depleted EC populations by 7 days post-injury. Treatment with an apelin receptor antagonist prevented ALI resolution and resulted in excessive mortality, consistent with a central role for apelin signaling in EC regeneration and microvascular repair. The lung has a remarkable capacity for microvasculature EC regeneration which is orchestrated by newly emergent apelin-expressing gCap endothelial stem-like cells that give rise to highly proliferative, apelin receptor-positive endothelial progenitors responsible for the regeneration of the lung microvasculature.

Keywords: angiogenesis; apelin; cell biology; endothelial cells; mouse; pulmonary biology; regenerative medicine; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury*
  • Animals
  • Apelin / metabolism
  • Apelin Receptors / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Transcriptome*


  • Apelin
  • Apelin Receptors

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE211335
  • GEO/GSE124872
  • GEO/GSE148499