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Annu Rev Physiol. 2009;71:489-507. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.010908.163200.

Immunobiology of asthma.

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Meakins-Christie Labs, McGill University, Montreal, Qu├ębec H2X 2P2, Canada.


Asthma is characterized by chronic inflammation of the airways in which there is an overabundance of eosinophils, mast cells, and activated T helper lymphocytes. These inflammatory cells release mediators that then trigger bronchoconstriction, mucus secretion, and remodeling. The inflammatory mediators that drive this process include cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, lipid mediators, immunoglobulins, and histamine. The inflammation in allergic asthma can be difficult to control. This is mainly due to the development of an adaptive immunity to an allergen, leading to immunological memory. This leads to recall reactions to the allergen, causing persistent inflammation and damage to the airways. Generally, in asthma inflammation is directed by Th2 cytokines, which can act by positive feedback mechanisms to promote the production of more inflammatory mediators including other cytokines and chemokines. This review discusses the role of cytokines and chemokines in the immunobiology of asthma and attempts to relate their expression to morphological and functional abnormalities in the lungs of asthmatic subjects. We also discuss new concepts in asthma immunology, in particular the role of cytokines in airway remodeling and the interaction between cytokines and infection.

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