c-Kit immunoexpression delineates a putative endothelial progenitor cell population in developing human lungs

Takaya Suzuki, Satoshi Suzuki, Naoya Fujino, Chiharu Ota, Mitsuhiro Yamada, Takashi Suzuki, Mutsuo Yamaya, Takashi Kondo, Hiroshi Kubo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Expression of c-Kit and its ligand, stem cell factor (SCF), in developing human lung tissue was investigated by immunohistochemistry. Twenty-eight human fetal lungs [age range 13 to 38 gestational wk (GW)] and 12 postnatal lungs (age range 1-79 yr) were evaluated. We identified c-Kit+ cells in the lung mesenchyme as early as 13 GW. These mesenchymal c-Kit+ cells in the lung did not express mast cell tryptase or α-smooth muscle actin. However, these cells did express CD34, VEGFR2, and Tie-2, indicating their endothelial lineage. Three-dimensional reconstructions of confocal laser scanning images revealed that c-Kit+ cells displayed a closed-end tube formation that did not contain hematopoietic cells. From the pseudoglandular phase to the canalicular phase, c-Kit+ cells appeared to continuously proliferate, to connect with central pulmonary vessels, and finally, to develop the lung capillary plexus. The spatial distribution of c-Kit- and SCF-positive cells was also demonstrated, and these cells were shown to be in close association. Our results suggest that c-Kit expression in early fetal lungs marks a progenitor population that is restricted to endothelial lineage. This study also suggests the potential involvement of c-Kit signaling in lung vascular development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L855-L865
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014 May 1


  • Endothelial cells
  • Lung development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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