The role of airway mucus in pulmonary toxicology

J. M. Samet, P. W. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Airway mucus is a complex airway secretion whose primary function as part of the mucociliary transport mechanism is to to serve as renewable and transportable barrier against inhaled particulates and toxic agents. The rheologic properties necessary for this function are imparted by glycoproteins, or mucins. Some respiratory disease states, e.g., asthma, cystic fibrosis, and bronchitis, are characterized by quantitative and qualitative changes in mucus biosynthesis that contribute to pulmonary pathology. Similar alterations in various aspects of mucin biochemistry and biophysics, leading to mucus hypersecretion and altered mucus rheology, result from inhalation of certain air pollutants, such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and cigarette smoke. The consequences of these pollutant-induced alterations in mucus biology are discussed in the context of pulmonary pathophysiology and toxicology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-103
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Air pollutants
  • Glycoproteins
  • Lung toxicology
  • Mucins
  • Mucus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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