TGF-β: The missing link in obesity-associated airway diseases?

Curr Res Pharmacol Drug Discov. 2021 Feb 5;2:100016. doi: 10.1016/j.crphar.2021.100016. eCollection 2021.


Obesity is emerging as a global public health epidemic. The co-morbidities associated with obesity significantly contribute to reduced quality of life, mortality, and global healthcare burden. Compared to other asthma comorbidities, obesity prominently engenders susceptibility to inflammatory airway diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), contributes to greater disease severity and evokes insensitivity to current therapies. Unlike in other metabolic diseases associated with obesity, the mechanistic link between obesity and airway diseases is only poorly defined. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is a pleiotropic inflammatory cytokine belonging to a family of growth factors with pivotal roles in asthma. In this review, we summarize the role of TGF-β in major obesity-associated co-morbidities to shed light on mechanisms of the diseases. Literature evidence shows that TGF-β mechanistically links many co-morbidities with obesity through its profibrotic, remodeling, and proinflammatory functions. We posit that TGF-β plays a similar mechanistic role in obesity-associated inflammatory airway diseases such as asthma and COPD. Concerning the role of TGF-β on metabolic effects of obesity, we posit that TGF-β has a similar mechanistic role in obesity-associated inflammatory airway diseases in interplay with different comorbidities such as hypertension, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, and cardiomyopathies. Future studies in TGF-β-dependent mechanisms in obesity-associated inflammatory airway diseases will advance our understanding of obesity-induced asthma and help find novel therapeutic targets for prevention and treatment.

Keywords: Asthma; Cytokines; Fibrosis; Inflammation; Obesity; Remodeling.

Publication types

  • Review