Background: Alveolar epithelial type 2 (AT2) cells serve as stem cells in alveolar epithelium and are assumed to lose their stem cell function in the lungs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although we previously reported that LHX9 mRNA expression was up-regulated in AT2 cells of COPD lung tissues, it is yet to be elucidated how LHX9 is associated with the vulnerability of AT2 cells in COPD. Methods: AT2 cells were isolated from lung tissues of 10 non-COPD subjects and 11 COPD patients. LHX9 mRNA expression was determined by quantitative RT-PCR. To identify up-stream molecules, an alveolar epithelial cell line A549 was exposed to pro-inflammatory cytokines in vitro. siRNA-mediated Lhx9 knockdown was performed to determine how Lhx9 affected the cellular viability and the cell-division cycle. Results: LHX9 mRNA expression was increased in AT2 cells from COPD lung tissues, compared to those from non-COPD tissues. The airflow obstruction was independently correlated with the increase in LHX9 expression. Among several pro-inflammatory cytokines, interferon-γ was a strong inducer of LHX9 expression in A549 cells. Lhx9 was involved in the increased susceptibility to serum starvation-induced death of A549 cells. Conclusions: Our data suggest that IFN-γ predominantly increases the LHX9 expression which enhances the susceptibility to cell death. Considering the independent association of the increased LHX9 expression in AT2 cells with airflow obstruction, the IFN-γ-Lhx9 axis might contribute to the vulnerability of AT2 cells in the lungs of COPD patients.