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Generation of a new immortalized human lung pericyte cell line: a promising tool for human lung pericyte studies


Pericytes apposed to the capillary endothelium are known to stabilize and promote endothelial integrity. Recent studies indicate that lung pericytes play a prominent role in lung physiology, and they are involved in the development of various lung diseases including lung injury in sepsis, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, and pulmonary hypertension. Accordingly, human lung pericyte studies are important for understanding the mechanistic basis of lung physiology and pathophysiology; however, human lung pericytes can only be cultured for a few passages and no immortalized human lung pericyte cell line has been established so far. Thus, our study aims to establish an immortalized human lung pericyte cell line. Developed using SV40 large T antigen lentivirus, immortalized pericytes exhibit stable SV40T expression, sustained proliferation, and have significantly higher telomerase activity compared to normal human lung pericytes. In addition, these cells retained pericyte characteristics, marked by similar morphology, and expression of pericyte cell surface markers such as PDGFRβ, NG2, CD44, CD146, CD90, and CD73. Furthermore, similar to that of primary pericytes, immortalized pericytes promoted endothelial cell tube formation and responded to different stimuli. Our previous data showed that friend leukemia virus integration 1 (Fli-1), a member of the ETS transcription factor family, is a key regulator that modulates inflammatory responses in mouse lung pericytes. We further demonstrated that Fli-1 regulates inflammatory responses in immortalized human lung pericytes. To summarize, we successfully established an immortalized human lung pericyte cell line, which serves as a promising tool for in vitro pericyte studies to understand human lung pericyte physiology and pathophysiology.

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Fig. 1: Cell morphology and characteristics of normal and immortalized human lung pericytes.
Fig. 2: Relative telomerase activity of normal and immortalized human lung pericytes.
Fig. 3: Representative histograms of cell-surface marker staining on immortalized human lung pericytes.
Fig. 4: Response of normal and immortalized human lung pericytes to different stimuli.
Fig. 5: The effect of normal and immortalized human lung pericytes on endothelial cell tube formation under hypoxic conditions.
Fig. 6: Fli-1 regulates inflammatory response in immortalized human lung pericytes.


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We thank Dr. Carol Feghali-Bostwick for providing us the human lung sample through her collaboration with Dr. Joseph Pilewski at the University of Pittsburgh.


This work was supported in part by National Institute of Health grants [1R01GM113995 (HF), 1R01GM130653 (HF), 3R01GM130653-03S1 (HF), 1K23HL135263-01A1 (AJG), UL1TR001451 (PVH), and ULTR001450 (PVH)].

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PL and HF performed study concept and design; PL, YW, and HF provided acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data, and statistical analysis; PL, AJG, PVH, CLW, LMS, and HF writing, review, and revision of the paper; CLW and LMS provided material support. All authors read and approved the final paper.

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Correspondence to Hongkuan Fan.

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Li, P., Wu, Y., Goodwin, A.J. et al. Generation of a new immortalized human lung pericyte cell line: a promising tool for human lung pericyte studies. Lab Invest (2021).

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