Airway mucus hypersecretion in asthma: an undervalued pathology?

Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2004 Jun;4(3):241-50. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2004.01.011.


Airway mucus hypersecretion is a feature of many patients with asthma. It is indicative of poor asthma control and contributes to morbidity and mortality. Excess mucus not only obstructs airways but also contributes to airway hyperresponsiveness. Furthermore, asthma might have a specific mucus hypersecretory phenotype. Goblet cell hyperplasia and submucosal gland hypertrophy are shared with other hypersecretory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; however, some features are different, including mucus plugging, mucus "tethering" to goblet cells, plasma exudation, and increased amounts of a low charge glycoform of mucin (MUC)5B and the presence of MUC2 in secretions. Experimentally, most of the inflammatory mediators and neural mechanisms implicated in the pathophysiology of asthma impact upon the mucus hypersecretory phenotype. There is currently huge research interest in identifying targets involved in inducing mucus abnormalities, which should lead to the rational design of anti-hypersecretory drugs for treatment of airway mucus hypersecretion in asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / etiology*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Cytokines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Mucus / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*


  • Cytokines