Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Annu Rev Physiol. 1979;41:369-81.

Control of mucus secretion and ion transport in airways.


The output of secretions from the airway submucosal glands is regulated by vagal efferent nerves. Stimulation of cough receptors increases mucus output reflexly via the vagus nerves. Adrenergic agonists increase submucosal gland secretions in some species, which indicates that adrenergic receptors are present in these cells. However, evidence for adrenergic nervous pathways to the glands is limited. Irritants and drugs stimulate secretion from epithelial cells by direct effects. There is also evidence that the secretion of epithelial cells can be stimulated by parasympathetic nervous pathways in birds but not in mammals. Active ion transport of Cl- toward the lumen and of Na+ toward the submucosa results in net ion movement toward the airway lumen in unstimulated tracheal epithelia. Drugs and mediators increase the net movement of ions toward the lumen. No agents have yet been found that increase net ion movement toward the submucosa. The link between ion transport and water secretion in airway epithelia, although speculative, seems likely in view of the evidence from other epithelia. Since airway epithelium is a "tight junction" epithelium, modification of the tight junction may alter the transepithelial movement of water and ions. We suggest that the depth and consistency of the periciliary layer of airway secretions determine the ability of the cilia to propel the mucoprotein gel and thereby modify mucociliary transport. To achieve this, secretion of mucus must be controlled separately from the secretion of water. Studies are needed to determine which of the specialized functions of the epithelial cells interact to regulate the clearance of secretions from the airway. Is the sol maintained by secretion and reabsorption of fluid across the epithelium? Does the sol move with the gel by ciliary action or does it remain stationary? Do changes in the epithelial tight junctions influence net water movement and thus indirectly alter the depth of the sol layer? To answer these questions, techniques are needed to study subunits of the airway, including isolated surface cells and submucosal glands; and sensitive methods are required to analyze the very small samples of secretions for glycoprotein and electrolyte content. Intracellular measurements of electrolyte concentrations and electrical potentials may help to elucidate the mechanisms of transepithelial ion and water movement. The control system for the production and removal of respiratory tract secretions may be altered in disease. For instance, chronic stimulation of cough receptors causes reflex secretion and may be the cause of the hyperplasia of submucosal glands and of the abnormal secretions that occur in chronic bronchitis and asthma (50, 58). The abnormally viscid mucus in cystic fibrosis may be due to a defect in Cl- transport, which provides too little water for both the gel and sol layers. These speculations are intended to identify areas for further research, which hopefully will reduce the morbidity and mortality in these common lung diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Atypon
    Loading ...
    Support Center