Research Article

Pulmonary neuroendocrine cells amplify allergic asthma responses

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, eaan8546
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8546

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Finding a role for PNECs in asthma

Pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (PNECs) are a rare cell type located in airway and alveolar epithelia and are often in contact with sensory nerve fibers. They have a wide phylogenic distribution and are found even in the relatively primitive lungs of amphibia and reptiles, suggesting a critical function. Sui et al. found that mice lacking PNECs have suppressed type 2 (allergic) immune responses. PNECs were observed in close proximity to group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) around airway branch points. The PNECs enhanced ILC2 activity by secreting CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide). They also induced goblet-cell hyperplasia via the neurotransmitter GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid). Interestingly, human asthma patients were found to have increased PNEC numbers, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of asthma.

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