Dysfunction of alveolar epithelial type 2 cells (AEC2s), the facultative progenitors of lung alveoli, is implicated in pulmonary disease pathogenesis, highlighting the importance of human in vitro models. However, AEC2-like cells in culture have yet to be directly compared to their in vivo counterparts at single-cell resolution. Here, we performed head-to-head comparisons among the transcriptomes of primary (1°) adult human AEC2s, their cultured progeny, and human induced pluripotent stem cell–derived AEC2s (iAEC2s). We found each population occupied a distinct transcriptomic space with cultured AEC2s (1° and iAEC2s) exhibiting similarities to and differences from freshly purified 1° cells. Across each cell type, we found an inverse relationship between proliferative and maturation states, with preculture 1° AEC2s being most quiescent/mature and iAEC2s being most proliferative/least mature. Cultures of either type of human AEC2s did not generate detectable alveolar type 1 cells in these defined conditions; however, a subset of iAEC2s cocultured with fibroblasts acquired a transitional cell state described in mice and humans to arise during fibrosis or following injury. Hence, we provide direct comparisons of the transcriptomic programs of 1° and engineered AEC2s, 2 in vitro models that can be harnessed to study human lung health and disease.


Konstantinos-Dionysios Alysandratos, Carolina Garcia-de-Alba, Changfu Yao, Patrizia Pessina, Jessie Huang, Carlos Villacorta-Martin, Olivia T. Hix, Kasey Minakin, Claire L. Burgess, Pushpinder Bawa, Aditi Murthy, Bindu Konda, Michael F. Beers, Barry R. Stripp, Carla F. Kim, Darrell N. Kotton


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