Targeting the NF-kappaB pathway in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Jan;121(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2008.09.003. Epub 2008 Oct 6.


Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are inflammatory lung disorders responsible for significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. While the importance of allergic responses in asthma is well known, respiratory viral and bacterial infections and pollutants especially cigarette smoke are important factors in the pathogenesis of both diseases. Corticosteroid treatment remains the first preference of treatment in either disease, however these therapies are not always completely effective, and are associated with side effects and steroid resistance. Due to such limitations, development of new treatments represents a major goal for both the pharmaceutical industry and academic researchers. There are now excellent reasons to promote NF-kappaB signalling intermediates and Rel family proteins as potential therapeutic targets for both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This notion is supported by the fact that much of the underlying inflammation of both diseases independent of stimuli, is mediated at least in part, by NF-kappaB mediated signalling events in several cell types. Also, a range of inhibitors of NF-kappaB signalling intermediates are now available, including DNA oligonucleotides and DNA-peptide molecules that act as NF-kappaB decoy sequences, small molecule inhibitors such as IKK-beta inhibitors, and proteasome inhibitors affecting NF-kappaB signalling, that have either shown promise in animal models or have begun clinical trials in other disorders. This review will focus on the role of NF-kappaB in both diseases, will discuss its suitability as a target, and will highlight recent key studies that support the potential of NF-kappaB as a therapeutic target in these two important inflammatory lung diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Discovery
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • NF-kappa B / physiology
  • Oligonucleotides / pharmacology
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia / metabolism
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-rel / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-rel / physiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism
  • RNA, Antisense / pharmacology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-rel
  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • IKBKB protein, human