Airway mucus in cystic fibrosis

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2002 Jun;3(2):115-9. doi: 10.1016/s1526-0550(02)00005-7.


Defective expression and function of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) in cystic fibrosis (CF) airway epithelial cells are associated with airway mucus hypersecretion, inflammation and infection that begin early in life and lead, at an advanced stage of the disease, to severe airway obstruction with hyperviscous and adhesive airway mucus. Whether the abnormalities of airway mucus are already present at birth before infection is debatable. In CF, the impaired Cl(-) and HCO(3)(-) secretion associated with increased epithelial Na(+) absorption results in dehydration of airway mucus, decreased antimicrobial functions and impaired mucociliary clearance. Alterations in antibacterial peptide function, as well as the increased mucin expression and secretion (MUC 5AC and MUC 5B), are important biochemical factors responsible for the propensity for infection in CF airways. Alterations in mucin and lipid composition induce an increased viscosity and adhesiveness to the airways that can affect the mucociliary and cough transport. The increased content of pro-inflammation cytokines such as interleukin-8 (IL-8) suggest that, before infection, airway inflammation occurs very early in CF. The development of non-invasive techniques and humanised animal models (xenografts) represents a major opportunity to identify early abnormalities in CF airway mucus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cystic Fibrosis / physiopathology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mucins / chemistry
  • Mucociliary Clearance
  • Mucoproteins / chemistry
  • Mucus / chemistry
  • Mucus / metabolism*


  • CFTR protein, human
  • Mucins
  • Mucoproteins
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator