Bone-marrow transplantation is an effective cell therapy but requires myeloablation, which increases infection risk and mortality. Recent lineage-tracing studies documenting that resident macrophage populations self-maintain independently of haematological progenitors prompted us to consider organ-targeted, cell-specific therapy. Here, using granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor-β-deficient (Csf2rb−/−) mice that develop a myeloid cell disorder identical to hereditary pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (hPAP) in children with CSF2RA or CSF2RB mutations, we show that pulmonary macrophage transplantation (PMT) of either wild-type or Csf2rb-gene-corrected macrophages without myeloablation was safe and well-tolerated and that one administration corrected the lung disease, secondary systemic manifestations and normalized disease-related biomarkers, and prevented disease-specific mortality. PMT-derived alveolar macrophages persisted for at least one year as did therapeutic effects. Our findings identify mechanisms regulating alveolar macrophage population size in health and disease, indicate that GM-CSF is required for phenotypic determination of alveolar macrophages, and support translation of PMT as the first specific therapy for children with hPAP.