Send to

Choose Destination
Mol Cell Pediatr. 2016 Dec;3(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s40348-016-0057-3. Epub 2016 Jul 28.

The puzzle of immune phenotypes of childhood asthma.

Author information

Department of Pulmonary and Allergy, Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, LMU, Lindwurmstra├če 4, 80337, Munich, Germany.
Member of German Lung Centre (DZL), CPC, Munich, Germany.
Department of Pulmonary and Allergy, Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, LMU, Lindwurmstra├če 4, 80337, Munich, Germany.
Member of German Lung Centre (DZL), CPC, Munich, Germany.


Asthma represents the most common chronic childhood disease worldwide. Whereas preschool children present with wheezing triggered by different factors (multitrigger and viral wheeze), clinical asthma manifestation in school children has previously been classified as allergic and non-allergic asthma. For both, the underlying immunological mechanisms are not yet understood in depth in children. Treatment is still prescribed regardless of underlying mechanisms, and children are not always treated successfully. This review summarizes recent key findings on the complex mechanisms of the development and manifestation of childhood asthma. Whereas traditional classification of childhood asthma is primarily based on clinical symptoms like wheezing and atopy, novel approaches to specify asthma phenotypes are under way and face challenges such as including the stability of phenotypes over time and transition into adulthood. Epidemiological studies enclose more information on the patient's disease history and environmental influences. Latest studies define endotypes based on molecular and cellular mechanisms, for example defining risk and protective single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and new immune phenotypes, showing promising results. Also, regulatory T cells and recently discovered T helper cell subtypes such as Th9 and Th17 cells were shown to be important for the development of asthma. Innate lymphoid cells (ILC) could play a critical role in asthma patients as they produce different cytokines associated with asthma. Epigenetic findings showed different acetylation and methylation patterns for children with allergic and non-allergic asthma. On a posttranscriptional level, miRNAs are regulating factors identified to differ between asthma patients and healthy controls and also indicate differences within asthma phenotypes. Metabolomics is another exciting chapter important for endotyping asthmatic children. Despite the development of new biomarkers and the discovery of new immunological molecules, the complex puzzle of childhood asthma is still far from being completed. Addressing the current challenges of distinct clinical asthma and wheeze phenotypes, including their stability and underlying endotypes, involves addressing the interplay of innate and adaptive immune regulatory mechanisms in large, interdisciplinary cohorts.


Asthma; Biomarkers; Childhood asthma; Endotypes; Immune mechanisms; Phenotypes; Puzzle

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center