Alveologenesis is the final stage of lung development in which the internal surface area of the lung is increased to facilitate efficient gas exchange in the mature organism. The first phase of alveologenesis involves the formation of septal ridges (secondary septae) and the second phase involves thinning of the alveolar septa. Within secondary septa, mesenchymal cells include a transient population of alveolar myofibroblasts (MyoFBs) and a stable but poorly described population of lipid-rich cells that have been referred to as lipofibroblasts or matrix fibroblasts (MatFBs). Using a unique Fgf18CreER lineage trace mouse line, cell sorting, single-cell RNA sequencing and primary cell culture, we have identified multiple subtypes of mesenchymal cells in the neonatal lung, including an immature progenitor cell that gives rise to mature MyoFB. We also show that the endogenous and targeted ROSA26 locus serves as a sensitive reporter for MyoFB maturation. These studies identify a MyoFB differentiation program that is distinct from other mesenchymal cell types and increases the known repertoire of mesenchymal cell types in the neonatal lung.

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