A new tractable method for generating human alveolar macrophage-like cells in vitro to study lung inflammatory processes and diseases

Susanta Pahari, Eusondia Arnett, Jan Simper, Abul Azad, Israel Guerrero-Arguero, Chengjin Ye, Hao Zhang, Hong Cai, Yufeng Wang, Zhao Lai, Natalie Jarvis, Miranda Lumbreras, Diego Jose Maselli, Jay Peters, Jordi B. Torrelles, Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Larry S. Schlesinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are unique lung resident cells that contact airborne pathogens and environmental particulates. The contribution of human AMs (HAMs) to pulmonary diseases remains poorly understood due to the difficulty in accessing them from human donors and their rapid phenotypic change during in vitro culture. Thus, there remains an unmet need for cost-effective methods for generating and/or differentiating primary cells into a HAM phenotype, particularly important for translational and clinical studies. We developed cell culture conditions that mimic the lung alveolar environment in humans using lung lipids, that is, Infasurf (calfactant, natural bovine surfactant) and lung-associated cytokines (granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, transforming growth factor-β, and interleukin 10) that facilitate the conversion of blood-obtained monocytes to an AM-like (AML) phenotype and function in tissue culture. Similar to HAM, AML cells are particularly susceptible to both Mycobacterium tuberculosis and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections. This study reveals the importance of alveolar space components in the development and maintenance of HAM phenotype and function and provides a readily accessible model to study HAM in infectious and inflammatory disease processes, as well as therapies and vaccines. IMPORTANCE Millions die annually from respiratory disorders. Lower respiratory track gas-exchanging alveoli maintain a precarious balance between fighting invaders and minimizing tissue damage. Key players herein are resident AMs. However, there are no easily accessible in vitro models of HAMs, presenting a huge scientific challenge. Here, we present a novel model for generating AML cells based on differentiating blood monocytes in a defined lung component cocktail. This model is non-invasive, significantly less costly than performing a bronchoalveolar lavage, yields more AML cells than HAMs per donor, and retains their phenotype in culture. We have applied this model to early studies of M. tuberculosis and SARS-CoV-2. This model will significantly advance respiratory biology research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0083423
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 31 2023


  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • alveolar macrophage-like (AML) cells
  • human alveolar macrophages
  • lung cytokines
  • oxidative phosphorylation
  • surfactant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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