Airway remodeling in asthma: new mechanisms and potential for pharmacological intervention

Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Jun;130(3):325-37. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2011.02.001. Epub 2011 Feb 17.


The chronic inflammatory response within the airways of asthmatics is associated with structural changes termed airway remodeling. This remodeling process is a key feature of severe asthma. The 5-10% of patients with a severe form of the disease account for the higher morbidity and health costs related to asthma. Among the histopathological characteristics of airway remodeling, recent reports indicate that the increased mass of airway smooth muscle (ASM) plays a critical role. ASM cell proliferation in severe asthma implicates a gallopamil-sensitive calcium influx and the activation of calcium-calmodulin kinase IV leading to enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis through the activation of various transcription factors (PGC-1α, NRF-1 and mt-TFA). The altered expression and function of sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) pump could play a role in ASM remodeling in moderate to severe asthma. Additionally, aberrant communication between an injured airway epithelium and ASM could also contribute to disease severity. Airway remodeling is insensitive to corticosteroids and anti-leukotrienes whereas the effect of monoclonal antibodies (the anti-IgE omalizumab, the anti-interleukin-5 mepolizumab or anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha) remains to be investigated. This review focuses on potential new therapeutic strategies targeting ASM cells, especially Ca(2+) and mitochondria-dependent pathways.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Remodeling / drug effects
  • Airway Remodeling / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / trends
  • Humans


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal