Role of airway epithelial cells in development of asthma and allergic rhinitis

Respir Med. 2008 Jul;102(7):949-55. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2008.01.017. Epub 2008 Mar 12.


Asthma and allergic rhinitis frequently coexist in the same patient. There is a similarity and variation as well as potential relationship between asthma and allergic rhinitis. There is an increasing evidence to suggest a major involvement of airway epithelial cells in the pathogenesis of asthma and allergic rhinitis. The present review describes the importance of the airway epithelial cell in the development of allergic airway diseases, its role as the primary airway defense against exposure of the airway and lung to inflammatory stimuli and antigens and as an important player through activation of epithelial Toll-like receptors (TLRs) to provide an important link between innate immunity and allergic disease. Additionally, airway epithelial cells can act as inflammatory promoters capable of directing dendritic cells (DCs) towards a T helper 2 (Th2) response, and as active producers of several inflammatory/anti-inflammatory mediators. It is hypothesized that airway epithelial cells may play as both inflammatory initiator and immuno-pathological feedback regulation between allergic rhinitis and asthma via release of systemic inflammatory mediators. Thus, airway epithelial cells may be valuable therapeutic targets for discovery and development of new drugs and/or new therapeutic strategies to treat asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Bronchi / immunology
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Mucus / immunology
  • Rhinitis / etiology*
  • Rhinitis / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Toll-Like Receptors