Airway epithelium is the first line of defense against exposure of the airway and lung to various inflammatory stimuli. Ciliary beating of airway epithelial cells constitutes an important part of the mucociliary transport apparatus. To be effective in transporting secretions out of the lung, the mucociliary transport apparatus must exhibit a cohesive beating of all ciliated epithelial cells that line the upper and lower respiratory tract. Cilia function can be modulated by exposures to endogenous and exogenous factors and by the viscosity of the mucus lining the epithelium. Cilia function is impaired in lung diseases such as COPD and asthma, and pharmacologic agents can modulate cilia function and mucus viscosity. Cilia beating is reduced in COPD, however, more research is needed to determine the structural-functional regulation of ciliary beating via all signaling pathways and how this might relate to the initiation or progression of obstructive lung diseases. Additionally, genotypes and how these can influence phenotypes and epithelial cell cilia function and structure should be taken into consideration in future investigations.
Keywords: COPD; cilia; ciliary function; epithelium; inflammation; lung disease.