Regulation of immunological homeostasis in the respiratory tract

Nat Rev Immunol. 2008 Feb;8(2):142-52. doi: 10.1038/nri2236.


The respiratory tract has an approximate surface area of 70 m2 in adult humans, which is in virtually direct contact with the outside environment. It contains a uniquely rich vascular bed containing a large pool of marginated T cells, and harbours a layer of single-cell-thick epithelial tissue through which re-oxygenation of blood must occur uninterrupted for survival. It is therefore not surprising that the respiratory tract is never more than a short step away from disaster. We have only a partial understanding of how immunological homeostasis is maintained in these tissues, but it is becoming clear that the immune system has evolved a range of specific mechanisms to deal with the unique problems encountered in this specialized microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement
  • Homeostasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology