Structural changes known as airway remodeling characterize chronic/severe asthma and contribute to lung dysfunction. We previously reported that neonatal SSEA-1+ pulmonary stem/progenitor cells (PSCs) ameliorated airway inflammation in asthmatic mice. However, the molecular mechanisms by which endogenous SSEA-1+ PSC of adult mice afford beneficial effects in alveolar homeostasis and lung repair after allergen challenge remain incompletely understood. To analyze the expression profile and clarify the biological significance of endogenous adult lung SSEA-1+ cells in asthmatic mice. Lung SSEA-1+ cells and circulating SSEA-1+ cells in peripheral blood were determined by confocal microscopy and cytometric analysis. GFP chimeric mice were used to trace cell lineage in vivo. The roles of circulating SSEA-1+ cells were verified in ovalbumin-induced and house dust mite-induced allergic asthmatic models. In asthmatic mice, endogenous lung SSEA-1+ cells almost disappeared; however, a unique population of circulating SSEA-1+ cells was enriched after the challenge phase. In asthmatic mice, adoptive transfer of circulating SSEA-1+ cells had a specific homing preference for the lung in response to inhaled antigen through upregulating CXCR7–CXCL11 chemokine axis. Circulating SSEA-1+ cells can transdifferentiate in the alveolar space and ameliorate lung inflammation and structural damage through inhibiting the infiltration of inflammatory cells into peribronchovascular and goblet cell hyperplasia areas, reducing the thickened smooth muscle layers and PAS-positive mucus-containing goblet cells. Reinforcing bone marrow-derived circulating SSEA-1+ cells from peripheral blood into lung tissue which create a rescue mechanism in maintaining alveolar homeostasis and tissue repair to mediate lung protection for emergency responses after allergen challenge in asthmatic conditions.
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