Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), comprised of pulmonary emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and structural and inflammatory changes of small airways, is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the world. A better understanding of the pathobiology of COPD is critical for the developing of novel therapies, as the majority of patients with the disease have little therapeutic options at the present time. The pathobiology of COPD encompasses multiple injurious processes including inflammation (excessive or inappropriate innate and adaptive immunity), cellular apoptosis, altered cellular and molecular alveolar maintenance program, abnormal cell repair, extracellular matrix destruction (protease and anti-protease imbalance), and oxidative stress (oxidant and antioxidant imbalance). These processes are triggered by urban and rural air pollutants and active and/or passive cigarette smoke and modified by cellular senescence and infection. A series of receptor-mediated signal transduction pathways are activated by reactive oxygen species and tobacco components, resulting in impairment of a variety of cell signaling and cytokine networks, subsequently leading to chronic airway responses with mucus production, airway remodeling, and alveolar destruction. The authors provide an updated insight into the molecular and cellular pathobiology of COPD based on human and/or animal data.