Mucus, Microbiomes and Pulmonary Disease

Biomedicines. 2021 Jun 13;9(6):675. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9060675.


The respiratory tract harbors a stable and diverse microbial population within an extracellular mucus layer. Mucus provides a formidable defense against infection and maintaining healthy mucus is essential to normal pulmonary physiology, promoting immune tolerance and facilitating a healthy, commensal lung microbiome that can be altered in association with chronic respiratory disease. How one maintains a specialized (healthy) microbiome that resists significant fluctuation remains unknown, although smoking, diet, antimicrobial therapy, and infection have all been observed to influence microbial lung homeostasis. In this review, we outline the specific role of polymerizing mucin, a key functional component of the mucus layer that changes during pulmonary disease. We discuss strategies by which mucin feed and spatial orientation directly influence microbial behavior and highlight how a compromised mucus layer gives rise to inflammation and microbial dysbiosis. This emerging field of respiratory research provides fresh opportunities to examine mucus, and its function as predictors of infection risk or disease progression and severity across a range of chronic pulmonary disease states and consider new perspectives in the development of mucolytic treatments.

Keywords: microbiome; mucin; mucus; pulmonary disease.

Publication types

  • Review