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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2016 Dec 1;311(6):L1113-L1140. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00370.2016. Epub 2016 Oct 14.

Emerging concepts in smooth muscle contributions to airway structure and function: implications for health and disease.

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Departments of Anesthesiology, and Physiology & Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota


Airway structure and function are key aspects of normal lung development, growth, and aging, as well as of lung responses to the environment and the pathophysiology of important diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and fibrosis. In this regard, the contributions of airway smooth muscle (ASM) are both functional, in the context of airway contractility and relaxation, as well as synthetic, involving production and modulation of extracellular components, modulation of the local immune environment, cellular contribution to airway structure, and, finally, interactions with other airway cell types such as epithelium, fibroblasts, and nerves. These ASM contributions are now found to be critical in airway hyperresponsiveness and remodeling that occur in lung diseases. This review emphasizes established and recent discoveries that underline the central role of ASM and sets the stage for future research toward understanding how ASM plays a central role by being both upstream and downstream in the many interactive processes that determine airway structure and function in health and disease.


asthma; bronchoconstriction; bronchodilation; calcium; development; extracellular matrix; hyperplasia; hypertrophy; inflammation; lung; proliferation; remodeling

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