Studies in human peripheral blood monocyte–derived macrophages in vitro have shown clear evidence that multiple macrophage polarization states exist. The extent to which different alveolar macrophage (AM) polarization states exist in homeostasis or in the setting of severe injury such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is largely unknown. We applied single-cell cytometry TOF (CyTOF) to simultaneously measure 36 cell-surface markers on CD45+ cells present in bronchoalveolar lavage from healthy volunteers, as well as mechanically ventilated subjects with and without ARDS. Visualization of the high-dimensional data with the t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding algorithm demonstrated wide diversity of cell-surface marker profiles among CD33+CD71+CD163+ AMs. We then used a κ-nearest neighbor density estimation algorithm to statistically identify distinct alveolar myeloid subtypes, and we discerned 3 AM subtypes defined by CD169 and PD-L1 surface expression. The percentage of AMs that were classified into one of the 3 AM subtypes was significantly different between healthy and mechanically ventilated subjects. In an independent cohort of subjects with ARDS, PD-L1 gene expression and PD-L1/PD-1 pathway–associated gene sets were significantly decreased in AMs from patients who experienced prolonged mechanical ventilation or death. Unsupervised CyTOF analysis of alveolar leukocytes from human subjects has potential to identify expected and potentially novel myeloid populations that may be linked with clinical outcomes.


Eric D. Morrell, Alice Wiedeman, S. Alice Long, Sina A. Gharib, T. Eoin West, Shawn J. Skerrett, Mark M. Wurfel, Carmen Mikacenic


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