Role of bronchial basement membrane in airway collapse

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1991 Aug;71(2):666-73. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1991.71.2.666.


Bronchial basement membrane is an elastic structure that has the potential to be load bearing and thus to contribute to the mechanical stiffness of the bronchus. To investigate this possible role, the membrane was modeled as a thin-walled linearly elastic tube surrounded by a uniform liquid on the outside and by air on the inside. When the external pressure on such a tube exceeds the internal pressure by a critical amount, the tube buckles reversibly into two or more folds. The critical buckling pressure varies as the square of the number of folds. The analysis was used to investigate the collapse behavior of the model tube into patterns ranging from 2 to 24 folds. This showed that the resistance to collapse increases rapidly as the number of folds increases. Data in the literature lead to the conclusion that the pressures involved in collapsing the tubes are probably in the physiological range. It is suggested, on the basis of the model results reported here, that bronchial hyperresponsiveness could be related to the number of folds into which the basement membrane buckles when the bronchial muscle contracts. A reduced number of folds would yield an increased response.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pressure
  • Basement Membrane / physiology
  • Bronchi / physiopathology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology*