Recovery from lung injury during the neonatal period requires the orchestration of many biological pathways. The modulation of such pathways can drive the developing lung towards proper repair or persistent maldevelopment that can lead to a disease phenotype. Sex as a biological variable can regulate these pathways differently in the male and female lung exposed to neonatal hyperoxia. In this study, we assessed the contribution of cellular diversity in the male and female neonatal lung following injury. Our objective was to investigate sex and cell-type specific transcriptional changes that drive repair or persistent injury in the neonatal lung and delineate the alterations in the immune-endothelial cell communication networks using single cell RNA sequencing (sc-RNAseq) in a murine model of hyperoxic injury. We generated transcriptional profiles of >55,000 cells isolated from the lungs of postnatal day 1 (PND 1; pre-exposure), PND 7, and PND 21neonatal male and female C57BL/6 mice exposed to 95 % FiO2 between PND 1–5 (saccular stage of lung development). We show the presence of sex-based differences in the transcriptional states of lung endothelial and immune cells at PND 1 and PND 21. Furthermore, we demonstrate that biological sex significantly influences the response to injury, with a greater number of differentially expressed genes showing sex-specific patterns than those shared between male and female lungs. Pseudotime trajectory analysis highlighted genes needed for lung development that were altered by hyperoxia. Finally, we show intercellular communication between endothelial and immune cells at saccular and alveolar stages of lung development with sex-based biases in the crosstalk and identify novel ligand-receptor pairs. Our findings provide valuable insights into the cell diversity, transcriptional state, developmental trajectory, and cell-cell communication underlying neonatal lung injury, with implications for understanding lung development and possible therapeutic interventions while highlighting the crucial role of sex as a biological variable.
Exposure to supraphysiological concentrations of oxygen (hyperoxia) predisposes to bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which is characterized by abnormal alveolarization and pulmonary vascular development, in preterm neonates. Neonatal hyperoxia exposure is used to recapitulate the phenotype of human BPD in murine models. Male sex is considered an independent predictor for the development of BPD, but the main mechanisms underlying sexually dimorphic outcomes are unknown. Our objective was to investigate sex-specific and cell-type specific transcriptional changes that drive injury in the neonatal lung exposed to hyperoxia at single-cell resolution and delineate the changes in cell-cell communication networks in the developing lung. We used single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) to generate transcriptional profiles of >35,000 cells isolated from the lungs of neonatal male and female C57BL/6 mice exposed to 95% between PND1-5 (saccular stage of lung development) or normoxia and euthanized at PND7 (alveolar stage of lung development). ScRNAseq identified 22 cell clusters with distinct populations of endothelial, epithelial, mesenchymal, and immune cells. Our data identified that the distal lung vascular endothelium (composed of aerocytes and general capillary endothelial cells) is exquisitely sensitive to hyperoxia exposure with the emergence of an intermediate capillary endothelial population with both general capillaries (gCap) and aerocytes or alveolar capillaries (aCap) markers. We also identified a myeloid-derived suppressor cell population from the lung neutrophils. Sex-specific differences were evident in all lung cell subpopulations but were striking among the lung immune cells. Finally, we identified that the specific intercellular communication networks and the ligand-receptor pairs that are impacted by neonatal hyperoxia exposure.
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