The airway epithelium in asthma

Nat Med. 2012 May 4;18(5):684-92. doi: 10.1038/nm.2737.


Asthma is a T lymphocyte-controlled disease of the airway wall caused by inflammation, overproduction of mucus and airway wall remodeling leading to bronchial hyperreactivity and airway obstruction. The airway epithelium is considered an essential controller of inflammatory, immune and regenerative responses to allergens, viruses and environmental pollutants that contribute to asthma pathogenesis. Epithelial cells express pattern recognition receptors that detect environmental stimuli and secrete endogenous danger signals, thereby activating dendritic cells and bridging innate and adaptive immunity. Improved understanding of the epithelium's function in maintaining the integrity of the airways and its dysfunction in asthma has provided important mechanistic insight into how asthma is initiated and perpetuated and could provide a framework by which to select new therapeutic strategies that prevent exacerbations and alter the natural course of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Remodeling
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Cell Communication
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Dendritic Cells / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mucus / physiology
  • Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / physiology


  • Allergens
  • Cytokines
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin