Explore our dedicated publications page. Here, you can find key publications on epithelial science covering topics such as the epithelial barrier, epithelial cytokines, airway epithelium, airway hyperresponsiveness and airway remodelling.

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European Respiratory Journal

Airway remodelling in asthma and the epithelium: on the edge of a new era


Asthma is a chronic, heterogeneous disease of the airways, often characterised by structural changes known collectively as airway remodelling. In response to environmental insults, including pathogens, allergens and pollutants, the epithelium can initiate remodelling via an inflammatory cascade involving a variety of mediators that have downstream effects on both structural and immune cells. These mediators include the epithelial cytokines thymic stromal lymphopoietin, interleukin (IL)-33 and IL-25, which facilitate airway remodelling through cross-talk between epithelial cells and fibroblasts, and between mast cells and airway smooth muscle cells, as well as through signalling with immune cells such as macrophages. The epithelium can also initiate airway remodelling independently of inflammation in response to the mechanical stress present during bronchoconstriction. Furthermore, genetic and epigenetic alterations to epithelial components are believed to influence remodelling. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of the roles of the epithelium and epithelial cytokines in driving airway remodelling, facilitated by developments in genetic sequencing and imaging techniques. We also explore how new and existing therapeutics that target the epithelium and epithelial cytokines could modify airway remodelling.

International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is cleaved by human mast cell tryptase and chymase


Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), mainly expressed by epithelial cells, plays a central role in asthma. In humans, TSLP exists in two variants: the long form TSLP (lfTSLP) and a shorter TSLP isoform (sfTSLP). Macrophages (HLMs) and mast cells (HLMCs) are in close proximity in the human lung and play key roles in asthma. We evaluated the early proteolytic effects of tryptase and chymase released by HLMCs on TSLP by mass spectrometry. We also investigated whether TSLP and its fragments generated by these enzymes induce angiogenic factor release from HLMs. Mass spectrometry (MS) allowed the identification of TSLP cleavage sites caused by tryptase and chymase. Recombinant human TSLP treated with recombinant tryptase showed the production of 1-97 and 98-132 fragments. Recombinant chymase treatment of TSLP generated two peptides, 1-36 and 37-132. lfTSLP induced the release of VEGF-A, the most potent angiogenic factor, from HLMs. By contrast, the four TSLP fragments generated by tryptase and chymase failed to activate HLMs. Long-term TSLP incubation with furin generated two peptides devoid of activating property on HLMs. These results unveil an intricate interplay between mast cell-derived proteases and TSLP. These findings have potential relevance in understanding novel aspects of asthma pathobiology.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Airway hyperresponsiveness correlates with airway TSLP in asthma independent of eosinophilic inflammation


BACKGROUND: Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is released
from the airway epithelium in response to various environmental triggers, inducing a type-2 inflammatory response, and is associated with airway inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and exacerbations. TSLP may also induce AHR via a direct effect on airway smooth muscle and mast cells, independently of type-2 inflammation, although association between airway TSLP and AHR across asthma phenotypes has been described sparsely.

OBJECTIVES: This study sought to investigate the association between AHR and levels of TSLP in serum, sputum, and bronchoalveolar lavage in patients with asthma with and without type-2 inflammation.

METHODS: A novel ultrasensitive assay was used to measure levels of TSLP in patients with asthma (serum, n=182; sputum, n=81; bronchoalveolar lavage, n=85) and healthy controls (serum, n=47). The distribution and association among airway and systemic TSLP, measures of AHR, type-2 inflammation, and severity of disease were assessed.

RESULTS: TSLP in sputum was associated with AHR independently of levels of eosinophils and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (r=0.49, P=.005). Serum TSLP was higher in both eosinophil-high and eosinophil-low asthma compared to healthy controls: geometric mean: 1600 fg/mL (95% CI: 1468-1744 fg/mL) and 1294 fg/mL (95% CI: 1167-1435 fg/mL) versus 846 fg/mL (95% CI: 661-1082 fg/mL), but did not correlate with the level of AHR. Increasing age, male sex, and eosinophils in blood were associated with higher levels of TSLP in serum, whereas lung function, inhaled corticosteroid dose, and symptom score were not.

CONCLUSIONS: The association between TSLP in sputum and AHR to mannitol irrespective of markers of type-2 inflammation further supports a role of TSLP in AHR that is partially independent of eosinophilic inflammation.

European Journal of Internal Medicine

TSLP is localized in and released from human lung macrophages activated by T2-high and T2-low stimuli: relevance in asthma and COPD


BACKGROUND: Macrophages are the predominant immune cells in the human lung and play a central role in airway inflammation, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), a pleiotropic cytokine mainly expressed by bronchial epithelial cells, plays a key role in asthma and COPD pathobiology. TSLP exists in two variants: the long form (lfTSLP) and a shorter TSLP isoform (sfTSLP). We aimed to localize TSLP in human lung macrophages (HLMs) and investigate the mechanisms of its release from these cells. We also evaluated the effects of the two variants of TSLP on the release of angiogenic factor from HLMs.

METHODS: We employed immunofluorescence and Western blot to localize intracellular TSLP in HLMs purified from human lung parenchyma. HLMs were activated by T2-high (IL-4, IL-13) and T2-low (lipopolysaccharide: LPS) immunological stimuli.

RESULTS: TSLP was detected in HLMs and subcellularly localized in the cytoplasm. IL-4 and LPS induced TSLP release from HLMs. Preincubation of macrophages with brefeldin A, known to disrupt the Golgi apparatus, inhibited TSLP release induced by LPS and IL-4. lfTSLP concentration-dependently induced the release of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), the most potent angiogenic factor, from HLMs. sfTSLP neither activated nor interfered with the activating property of lfTSLP on macrophages.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results highlight a novel immunologic circuit between HLMs and TSLP. Given the central role of macrophages in airway inflammation, this autocrine loop holds potential translational relevance in understanding innovative aspects of the pathobiology of asthma and chronic inflammatory lung disorders.

International Journal of Molecular Sciences

The alarmin triad—IL-25, IL-33, and TSLP—serum levels and their clinical implications in chronic spontaneous urticaria


This study delves into the critical role of alarmins in chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU), focusing on their impact on disease severity and the quality of life (QoL) of patients. We investigated the alterations in alarmin levels in CSU patients and their correlations with the Urticaria Activity Score (UAS7) and the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI). We analyzed serum levels of interleukin-25 (IL-25), interleukin-33 (IL-33), and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) in 50 CSU patients, comparing these to 38 healthy controls. The study examined the relationship between alarmin levels and clinical outcomes, including disease severity and QoL. Elevated levels of IL-33 and TSLP in CSU patients (p < 0.0001) highlight their potential role in CSU pathogenesis. Although IL-25 showed higher levels in CSU patients, this did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.0823). Crucially, IL-33’s correlation with both UAS7 and DLQI scores underscores its potential as a biomarker for CSU diagnosis and severity assessment. Of the alarmins analyzed, IL-33 emerges as particularly significant for further exploration as a diagnostic and prognostic biomarker in CSU. Its substantial correlation with disease severity and impact on QoL makes it a compelling candidate for future research, potentially serving as a target for therapeutic interventions. Given these findings, IL-33 deserves additional investigation to confirm its role and effectiveness as a biomarker and therapeutic target in CSU.

Journal of Translational Medicine

Role of IL-33-ST2 pathway in regulating inflammation: current evidence and future perspectives


Interleukin (IL)-33 is an alarmin of the IL-1 superfamily localized to the nucleus of expressing cells, such as endothelial cells, epithelial cells, and fibroblasts. In response to cellular damage or stress, IL-33 is released and activates innate immune responses in some immune and structural cells via its receptor interleukin-1 receptor like-1 (IL-1RL1 or ST2). Recently, IL-33 has become a hot topic of research because of its role in pulmonary inflammation. The IL-33-ST2 signaling pathway plays a pro-inflammatory role by activating the type 2 inflammatory response, producing type 2 cytokines and chemokines. Elevated levels of IL-33 and ST2 have been observed in chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD). Notably, IL-33 is present in COPD induced by cigarette smoke or acute inflammations. The role of IL-33 in sepsis is becoming increasingly prominent, and understanding its significance in the treatment of sepsis associated with high mortality is critical. In addition to its pro-inflammatory effects, the IL-33-ST2 axis appears to play a role in bacterial clearance and tissue repair. In this review, we focused on the role of the IL-33-ST2 axis in sepsis, asthma, and COPD and summarized the therapeutic targets associated with this axis, providing a basis for future treatment.

Allergology International

Detrimental impact of the IL-33/ST2 axis in an animal infection model with Cryptococcus neoformans


Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii are pathogenic fungi that infect the human respiratory system and cause life-threatening pulmonary cryptococcosis. The immunopathology of cryptococcosis is completely different from that of other fungal allergies. In murine cryptococcal infection models, cryptococcal cells are usually injected via nasal or intratracheal routes. After the infection, the alveolar epithelial cells are impaired and release IL-33, an IL-1 family cytokine that functions as an alarmin. This cytokine detrimentally amplifies allergic responses, and also induces a protective immune response against parasitic infection. In the pulmonary cryptococcosis model, type-II alveolar epithelial cells are the major source of IL-33, and the alveolar epithelial cells, ILC2, and Th2 cells express the IL-33 receptor (ST2). In IL-33- or ST2-deficient mice, allergy-like immune responses are attenuated after the C. neoformans infection. The numbers of ILC2 and Th2 cells and the levels of type 2 cytokines, including IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13, are decreased in the mouse lungs in both models. In association with these changes, total blood IgE, bronchus mucus production, and the number of eosinophils are decreased. Conversely, lung neutrophils and M1-type macrophages are increased. These are protective immune subsets suppressing cryptococcal growth. As a result, the lung fungal burden of IL-33- and ST2-deficient mice is decreased post-infection, and both deficient mice show significantly improved mortality. This pathogenesis varies depending on the cryptococcal and murine strains used in the animal experiments. Here, we overview and discuss the itmmunopathology of the IL-33/ST2 axis in a murine lethal cryptococcal infection model.

Current Gastroenterology Reports

Barrier dysfunction in eosinophilic esophagitis


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Compelling evidence over the past decade supports the central role of epithelial barrier dysfunction in the pathophysiology of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). The purpose of this review is to summarize the genetic, environmental, and immunologic factors driving epithelial barrier dysfunction, and how this impaired barrier can further promote the inflammatory response in EoE. 

RECENT FINDINGS: Common environmental exposures, such as detergents, may have a direct impact on the esophageal epithelial barrier. In addition, the effects of IL-13 on barrier dysfunction may be reduced by 17β-estradiol, Vitamin D, and the short chain fatty acids butyrate and propionate, suggesting novel therapeutic targets. There are many genetic, environmental, and immunologic factors that contribute to epithelial barrier dysfunction in EoE. This leads to further skewing of the immune response to a "Th2" phenotype, alterations in the esophageal microbiome, and penetration of relevant antigens into the esophageal mucosa, which are central to the pathophysiology of EoE.

International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Transcriptional regulation of airway epithelial cell differentiation: insights into the notch pathway and beyond


The airway epithelium is a critical component of the respiratory system, serving as a barrier against inhaled pathogens and toxins. It is composed of various cell types, each with specific functions essential to proper airway function. Chronic respiratory diseases can disrupt the cellular composition of the airway epithelium, leading to a decrease in multiciliated cells (MCCs) and an increase in secretory cells (SCs). Basal cells (BCs) have been identified as the primary stem cells in the airway epithelium, capable of self-renewal and differentiation into MCCs and SCs. This review emphasizes the role of transcription factors in the differentiation process from BCs to MCCs and SCs. Recent advancements in single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) techniques have provided insights into the cellular composition of the airway epithelium, revealing specialized and rare cell types, including neuroendocrine cells, tuft cells, and ionocytes. Understanding the cellular composition and differentiation processes within the airway epithelium is crucial for developing targeted therapies for respiratory diseases. Additionally, the maintenance of BC populations and the involvement of Notch signaling in BC self-renewal and differentiation are discussed. Further research in these areas could provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying airway epithelial homeostasis and disease pathogenesis.


Skin, gut, and lung barrier: physiological interface and target of intervention for preventing and treating allergic diseases


The epithelial barriers of the skin, gut, and respiratory tract are critical interfaces between the environment and the host, and they orchestrate both homeostatic and pathogenic immune responses. The mechanisms underlying epithelial barrier dysfunction in allergic and inflammatory conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, food allergy, eosinophilic oesophagitis, allergic rhinitis, chronic rhinosinusitis, and asthma, are complex and influenced by the exposome, microbiome, individual genetics, and epigenetics. Here, we review the role of the epithelial barriers of the skin, digestive tract, and airways in maintaining homeostasis, how they influence the occurrence and progression of allergic and inflammatory conditions, how current treatments target the epithelium to improve symptoms of these disorders, and what the unmet needs are in the identification and treatment of epithelial disorders.

Seminars in Immunology

The epithelial barrier: the gateway to allergic, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases and chronic neuropsychiatric conditions


Since the 1960s, our health has been compromised by exposure to over 350,000 newly introduced toxic substances, contributing to the current pandemic in allergic, autoimmune and metabolic diseases. The "Epithelial Barrier Theory" postulates that these diseases are exacerbated by persistent periepithelial inflammation (epithelitis) triggered by exposure to a wide range of epithelial barrier-damaging substances as well as genetic susceptibility. The epithelial barrier serves as the body's primary physical, chemical, and immunological barrier against external stimuli. A leaky epithelial barrier facilitates the translocation of the microbiome from the surface of the afflicted tissues to interepithelial and even deeper subepithelial locations. In turn, opportunistic bacterial colonization, microbiota dysbiosis, local inflammation and impaired tissue regeneration and remodelling follow. Migration of inflammatory cells to susceptible tissues contributes to damage and inflammation, initiating and aggravating many chronic inflammatory diseases. The objective of this review is to highlight and evaluate recent studies on epithelial physiology and its role in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases in light of the epithelial barrier theory.

European Journal of Immunology

Epithelial-immune cell interactions in allergic diseases


Epithelial/immune interactions are characterized by the different properties of the various epithelial tissues, the mediators involved, and the varying immune cells that initiate, sustain, or abrogate allergic diseases on the surface. The intestinal mucosa, respiratory mucosa, and regular skin feature structural differences according to their primary function and surroundings. In the context of these specialized functions, the active role of the epithelium in shaping immune responses is increasingly recognizable. Crosstalk between epithelial and immune cells plays an important role in maintaining homeostatic conditions. While cells of the myeloid cell lineage, mainly macrophages, are the dominating immune cell population in the skin and the respiratory tract, lymphocytes comprise most intraepithelial immune cells in the intestine under healthy conditions. Common to all surface epithelia is the fact that innate immune cells represent the first line of immunosurveillance that either directly defeats invading pathogens or initiates and coordinates more effective successive immune responses involving adaptive immune cells and effector cells. Pharmacological approaches for the treatment of allergic and chronic inflammatory diseases involving epithelial barriers target immunological mediators downstream of the epithelium (such as IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, and IgE). The next generation of therapeutics involves upstream events of the inflammatory cascade, such as epithelial-derived alarmins and related mediators.

Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

How does global warming contribute to disorders originating from an impaired epithelial barrier?


The epithelial barrier represents the point of contact between the host and the external environment. It is the first line of defense against external insults in the skin and in the gastrointestinal and upper and lower respiratory tracts. The steep increase in chronic disorders in recent decades, including allergies and autoimmune disorders, has prompted studies to investigate the immune mechanisms of their underlying pathogeneses, all of which point to a thought-provoking shared finding: disrupted epithelial barriers. Climate change with global warming has increased the frequency of unpredictable extreme weather events, such as wildfires, droughts, floods, and aberrant and longer pollination seasons, among many others. These increasingly frequent natural disasters can synergistically damage the epithelial barrier integrity in the presence of environmental pollution. A disrupted epithelial barrier induces proinflammatory activation of epithelial cells and alarmin production, namely, epithelitis. The "opened" epithelial barrier facilitates the entry of the external exposome into and underneath the epithelium, triggering an expulsion response driven by inflammatory cells in the area and chronic inflammation. These changes are associated with microbial dysbiosis with colonizing opportunistic pathogens and decreased commensals. These cellular and molecular events are key mechanisms in the pathogenesis of numerous chronic inflammatory disorders. This review summarizes the impact of global warming on epithelial barrier functions in the context of allergic diseases. Further studies in the impact of climate change on the dysfunction of the epithelial barriers are warranted to improve our understanding of epithelial barrier-related diseases and raise awareness of the environmental insults that pose a threat to our health.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research

Epithelial barrier theory: the role of exposome, microbiome, and barrier function in allergic diseases


Allergic diseases are a major public health problem with increasing prevalence. These immune-mediated diseases are characterized by defective epithelial barriers, which are explained by the epithelial barrier theory and continuously emerging evidence. Environmental exposures (exposome) including global warming, changes and loss of biodiversity, pollution, pathogens, allergens and mites, laundry and dishwasher detergents, surfactants, shampoos, body cleaners and household cleaners, microplastics, nanoparticles, toothpaste, enzymes and emulsifiers in processed foods, and dietary habits are responsible for the mucosal and skin barrier disruption. Exposure to barrier-damaging agents causes epithelial cell injury and barrier damage, colonization of opportunistic pathogens, loss of commensal bacteria, decreased microbiota diversity, bacterial translocation, allergic sensitization, and inflammation in the periepithelial area. Here, we review scientific evidence on the environmental components that impact epithelial barriers and microbiome composition and their influence on asthma and allergic diseases. We also discuss the historical overview of allergic diseases and the evolution of the hygiene hypothesis with theoretical evidence.

American Physiological Society

ATP functions as a primary alarmin in allergen-induced type 2 immunity


Environmental allergens that interact with the airway epithelium can activate cellular stress pathways that lead to the release of danger signals known as alarmins. The mechanisms of alarmin release are distinct from damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), which typically escape from cells after loss of plasma membrane integrity. Oxidative stress represents a form of allergen-induced cellular stress that stimulates oxidant-sensing mechanisms coupled to pathways, which facilitate alarmin mobilization and efflux across the plasma membrane. In this review, we highlight examples of alarmin release and discuss their roles in the initiation of type 2 immunity and allergic airway inflammation. In addition, we discuss the concept of alarmin amplification, where "primary" alarmins, which are directly released in response to a specific cellular stress, stimulate additional signaling pathways that lead to secretion of "secondary" alarmins that include proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-33, as well as genomic and mitochondrial DNA that coordinate or amplify type 2 immunity. Accordingly, allergen-evoked cellular stress can elicit a hierarchy of alarmin signaling responses from the airway epithelium that trigger local innate immune reactions, impact adaptive immunity, and exacerbate diseases including asthma and other chronic inflammatory conditions that affect airway function.

Cell Communication and Signaling

The destruction of mucosal barriers, epithelial remodeling, and impaired mucociliary clearance: possible pathogenic mechanisms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus in chronic rhinosinusitis


Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a pathological condition characterized by persistent inflammation in the upper respiratory tract and paranasal sinuses. The epithelium serves as the first line of defense against potential threats and protects the nasal mucosa. The fundamental mechanical barrier is formed by the cell-cell contact and mucociliary clearance (MCC) systems. The physical-mechanical barrier is comprised of many cellular structures, including adhesion junctions and tight junctions (TJs). To this end, different factors, such as the dysfunction of MCC, destruction of epithelial barriers, and tissue remodeling, are related to the onset and development of CRS. Recently published studies reported the critical role of different microorganisms, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in the induction of the mentioned factors. Bacteria could result in diminished ciliary stimulation capacity, and enhance the chance of CRS by reducing basal ciliary beat frequency. Additionally, bacterial exoproteins have been demonstrated to disrupt the epithelial barrier and induce downregulation of transmembrane proteins such as occludin, claudin, and tricellulin. Moreover, bacteria exert an influence on TJ proteins, leading to an increase in the permeability of polarized epithelial cells. Noteworthy, it is evident that the activation of TLR2 by staphylococcal enterotoxin can potentially undermine the structural integrity of TJs and the epithelial barrier through the induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The purpose of this article is an attempt to investigate the possible role of the most important microorganisms associated with CRS and their pathogenic mechanisms against mucosal surfaces and epithelial barriers in the paranasal sinuses.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Viral infections and chronic rhinosinusitis


Viral infections are the most common cause of upper respiratory infections; they frequently infect adults once or twice and children 6 to 8 times annually. In most cases, these infections are self-limiting and resolve. However, many patients with chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) relay that their initiating event began with an upper respiratory infection that progressed in both symptom severity and duration. Viruses bind to sinonasal epithelia through specific receptors, thereby entering cells and replicating within them. Viral infections stimulate interferon-mediated innate immune responses. Recent studies suggest that viral infections may also induce type 2 immune responses and stimulate the aberrant production of cytokines that can result in loss of barrier function, which is a hallmark in CRS. The main purpose of this review will be to highlight common viruses and their associated binding receptors and highlight pathophysiologic mechanisms associated with alterations in mucociliary clearance, epithelial barrier function, and dysfunctional immune responses that might lead to a further understanding of the pathogenesis of CRS.

European Respiratory Journal

The airway epithelium: an orchestrator of inflammation, a key structural barrier and a therapeutic target in severe asthma


Asthma is a disease of heterogeneous pathology, typically characterized by excessive inflammatory and bronchoconstrictor responses to the environment. The clinical expression of the disease is a consequence of the interaction between environmental factors and host factors over time, including genetic susceptibility, immune dysregulation and airway remodelling. As a critical interface between the host and the environment, the airway epithelium plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis in the face of environmental challenges. Disruption of epithelial integrity is a key factor contributing to multiple processes underlying asthma pathology. In this review, we first discuss the unmet need in asthma management and provide an overview of the structure and function of the airway epithelium. We then focus on key pathophysiological changes that occur in the airway epithelium, including epithelial barrier disruption, immune hyperreactivity, remodelling, mucus hypersecretion and mucus plugging, highlighting how these processes manifest clinically and how they might be targeted by current and novel therapeutics.

European Journal of Immunology

Lung epithelial cells: upstream targets in type 2-high asthma


Over the last years, technological advances in the field of asthma have led to the identification of two disease endotypes, namely, type 2-high and type 2-low asthma, characterized by different pathophysiologic mechanisms at a cellular and molecular level. Although specific immune cells are important contributors to each of the recognized asthma endotype, the lung epithelium is now regarded as a crucial player able to orchestrate responses to inhaled environmental triggers such as allergens and microbes. The impact of the epithelium goes beyond its physical barrier. It is nowadays considered as a part of the innate immune system that can actively respond to insults. Activated epithelial cells, by producing a specific set of cytokines, trigger innate and adaptive immune cells to cause pathology. Here, we review how the epithelium contributes to the development of Th2 sensitization to allergens and asthma with a "type 2-high" signature, in both murine models and human studies of this asthma endotype. We also discuss epithelial responses to respiratory viruses, such as rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and SARS-CoV-2, and how these triggers influence not only asthma development but also asthma exacerbation. Finally, we also summarize the results of promising clinical trials using biologicals targeting epithelial-derived cytokines in asthmatic patients.


The dual role of the airway epithelium in asthma: active barrier and regulator of inflammation


Chronic airway inflammation is the cornerstone on which bronchial asthma arises, and in turn, chronic inflammation arises from a complex interplay between environmental factors such as allergens and pathogens and immune cells as well as structural cells constituting the airway mucosa. Airway epithelial cells (AECs) are at the center of these processes. On the one hand, they represent the borderline separating the body from its environment in order to keep inner homeostasis. The airway epithelium forms a multi-tiered, self-cleaning barrier that involves an unstirred, discontinuous mucous layer, the dense and rigid mesh of the glycocalyx, and the cellular layer itself, consisting of multiple, densely interconnected cell types. On the other hand, the airway epithelium represents an immunologically highly active tissue once its barrier has been penetrated: AECs play a pivotal role in releasing protective immunoglobulin A. They express a broad spectrum of pattern recognition receptors, enabling them to react to environmental stressors that overcome the mucosal barrier. By releasing alarmins-proinflammatory and regulatory cytokines-AECs play an active role in the formation, strategic orientation, and control of the subsequent defense reaction. Consequently, the airway epithelium is of vital importance to chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma.

Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Effect of air pollution on asthma


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway disease characterized by respiratory symptoms, variable airflow obstruction, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and airway inflammation. Exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of asthma development and exacerbation. This review aims to comprehensively summarize recent data on the impact of air pollution on asthma development and exacerbation. Specifically, we reviewed the effects of air pollution on the pathogenic pathways of asthma, including type 2 and non-type 2 inflammatory responses, and airway epithelial barrier dysfunction. Air pollution promotes the release of epithelial cytokines, driving TH2 responses, and induces oxidative stress and the production of proinflammatory cytokines. The enhanced type 2 inflammation, furthered by air pollution-induced dysfunction of the airway epithelial barrier, may be associated with the exacerbation of asthma. Disruption of the TH17/regulatory T cell balance by air pollutants is also related to asthma exacerbation. As the effects of air pollution exposure may accumulate over time, with potentially stronger impacts in the development of asthma during certain sensitive life periods, we also reviewed the effects of air pollution on asthma across the lifespan. Future research is needed to better characterize the sensitive period contributing to the development of air pollution-induced asthma and to map air pollution-associated epigenetic biomarkers contributing to the epigenetic ages onto asthma-related genes.

Paediatric Respiratory Reviews

Airway epithelial development and function: a key player in asthma pathogenesis?


Though asthma is a common and relatively easy to diagnose disease, attempts at primary or secondary prevention, and cure, have been disappointing. The widespread use of inhaled steroids has dramatically improved asthma control but has offered nothing in terms of altering long-term outcomes or reversing airway remodeling and impairment in lung function. The inability to cure asthma is unsurprising given our limited understanding of the factors that contribute to disease initiation and persistence. New data have focused on the airway epithelium as a potentially key factor orchestrating the different stages of asthma. In this review we summarize for the clinician the current evidence on the central role of the airway epithelium in asthma pathogenesis and the factors that may alter epithelial integrity and functionality.

European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

The implication of infection with respiratory syncytial virus in pediatric recurrent wheezing and asthma: knowledge expanded post-COVID-19 era


BACKGROUND: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection has been identified to serve as the primary cause of acute lower respiratory infectious diseases in children under the age of one and a significant risk factor for the emergence and development of pediatric recurrent wheezing and asthma, though the exact mechanism is still unknown. 

METHODS AND RESULTS: In this study, we discuss the key routes that lead to recurrent wheezing and bronchial asthma following RSV infection. It is interesting to note that following the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic, the prevalence of RSV changes significantly. This presents us with a rare opportunity to better understand the associated mechanism for RSV infection, its effects on the respiratory system, and the immunological response to RSV following the COVID-19 epidemic. To better understand the associated mechanisms in the occurrence and progression of pediatric asthma, we thoroughly described how the RSV infection directly destroys the physical barrier of airway epithelial tissue, promotes inflammatory responses, enhances airway hyper-responsiveness, and ultimately causes the airway remodeling. More critically, extensive discussion was also conducted regarding the potential impact of RSV infection on host pulmonary immune response. 

CONCLUSION: In conclusion, this study offers a comprehensive perspective to better understand how the RSV infection interacts in the control of the host's pulmonary immune system, causing recurrent wheezing and the development of asthma, and it sheds fresh light on potential avenues for pharmaceutical therapy in the future.

Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine

Serum biomarkers of remodeling in severe asthma with fixed airway obstruction and the potential role of KL-6


Over 3% of asthmatic patients are affected by a particularly severe form of the disease ("severe asthma", SA) which is often refractory to standard treatment. Airway remodeling (AR), which can be considered a critical characteristic of approximately half of all patients with SA and currently thought to be the main mechanism triggering fixed airway obstruction (FAO), seems to be a key factor affecting a patient's outcome. Despite the collective efforts of internationally renowned experts, to date only a few biomarkers indicative of AR and no recognizable biomarkers of lung parenchymal remodeling have been identified. This work examines the pathogenesis of airway and lung parenchymal remodeling and the serum biomarkers that may be able to identify the severe asthmatic patients who may develop FAO. The study also aims to examine if Krebs von den Lungen-6 (KL-6) could be considered a diagnostic biomarker of lung structural damage in SA.

Respiratory Research

Rhinovirus induces airway remodeling: what are the physiological consequences?


BACKGROUND: Rhinovirus infections commonly evoke asthma exacerbations in children and adults. Recurrent asthma exacerbations are associated with injury-repair responses in the airways that collectively contribute to airway remodeling. The physiological consequences of airway remodeling can manifest as irreversible airway obstruction and diminished responsiveness to bronchodilators. Structural cells of the airway, including epithelial cells, smooth muscle, fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, and adjacent lung vascular endothelial cells represent an understudied and emerging source of cellular and extracellular soluble mediators and matrix components that contribute to airway remodeling in a rhinovirus-evoked inflammatory environment. 

MAIN BODY: While mechanistic pathways associated with rhinovirus-induced airway remodeling are still not fully characterized, infected airway epithelial cells robustly produce type 2 cytokines and chemokines, as well as pro-angiogenic and fibroblast activating factors that act in a paracrine manner on neighboring airway cells to stimulate remodeling responses. Morphological transformation of structural cells in response to rhinovirus promotes remodeling phenotypes including induction of mucus hypersecretion, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transdifferentiation. Rhinovirus exposure elicits airway hyperresponsiveness contributing to irreversible airway obstruction. This obstruction can occur as a consequence of sub-epithelial thickening mediated by smooth muscle migration and myofibroblast activity, or through independent mechanisms mediated by modulation of the β2 agonist receptor activation and its responsiveness to bronchodilators. Differential cellular responses emerge in response to rhinovirus infection that predispose asthmatic individuals to persistent signatures of airway remodeling, including exaggerated type 2 inflammation, enhanced extracellular matrix deposition, and robust production of pro-angiogenic mediators. 

CONCLUSIONS: Few therapies address symptoms of rhinovirus-induced airway remodeling, though understanding the contribution of structural cells to these processes may elucidate future translational targets to alleviate symptoms of rhinovirus-induced exacerbations.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Airway hyperresponsiveness in asthma: the role of the epithelium


Airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) is a key clinical feature of asthma. The presence of AHR in people with asthma provides the substrate for bronchoconstriction in response to numerous diverse stimuli, contributing to airflow limitation and symptoms including breathlessness, wheeze and chest tightness. Dysfunctional airway smooth muscle (ASM) significantly contributes to AHR and is displayed as increased sensitivity to direct pharmacological bronchoconstrictor stimuli, such as inhaled histamine and methacholine (direct AHR), or to endogenous mediators released by activated airway cells such as mast cells (indirect AHR). Research in in vivo human models has shown that the disrupted airway epithelium plays an important role in driving inflammation that mediates indirect AHR in asthma, through the release of cytokines such as TSLP and IL-33. These cytokines upregulate type 2 cytokines promoting airway eosinophilia and induce the release of bronchoconstrictor mediators from mast cells such as histamine, prostaglandin D2 and cysteine leukotrienes. While bronchoconstriction is largely due to ASM constriction, airway structural changes termed 'remodelling', likely mediated in part by epithelial-derived mediators, also lead to airflow obstruction and may enhance AHR. In this review, we outline the current knowledge of the role of the airway epithelium in AHR in asthma and its implications on the wider disease. Increased understanding of airway epithelial biology may contribute to better treatment options, particularly in precision medicine.

European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Household laundry detergents disrupt barrier integrity and induce inflammation in mouse and human skin



Epithelial barrier impairment is associated with many skin and mucosal inflammatory disorders. Laundry detergents have been demonstrated to affect epithelial barrier function in vitro using air–liquid interface cultures of human epithelial cells.


Back skin of C57BL/6 mice was treated with two household laundry detergents at several dilutions. Barrier function was assessed by electric impedance spectroscopy (EIS) and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) measurements after the 4 h of treatments with detergents. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and targeted multiplex proteomics analyses in skin biopsy samples were performed. The 6-h treatment effect of laundry detergent and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) was investigated on ex vivo human skin.


Detergent-treated skin showed a significant EIS reduction and TEWL increase compared to untreated skin, with a relatively higher sensitivity and dose–response in EIS. The RNA-seq showed the reduction of the expression of several genes essential for skin barrier integrity, such as tight junctions and adherens junction proteins. In contrast, keratinization, lipid metabolic processes, and epidermal cell differentiation were upregulated. Proteomics analysis showed that the detergents treatment generally downregulated cell adhesion-related proteins, such as epithelial cell adhesion molecule and contactin-1, and upregulated proinflammatory proteins, such as interleukin 6 and interleukin 1 beta. Both detergent and SDS led to a significant decrease in EIS values in the ex vivo human skin model.


The present study demonstrated that laundry detergents and its main component, SDS impaired the epidermal barrier in vivo and ex vivo human skin. Daily detergent exposure may cause skin barrier disruption and may contribute to the development of atopic diseases.

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