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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012, Article ID 791392, 11 pages
Review Article

The Role of Airway Epithelial Cells in Response to Mycobacteria Infection

1Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education for the Conservation and Utilization of Special Biological Resources of Western China, Ningxia University, Yinchuan, Ningxia 750021, China
2College of Life Science, Ningxia University, Yinchuan, Ningxia 750021, China

Received 31 December 2011; Accepted 15 February 2012

Academic Editor: S. Sozzani

Copyright © 2012 Yong Li et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Airway epithelial cells (AECs) are part of the frontline defense against infection of pathogens by providing both a physical barrier and immunological function. The role of AECs in the innate and adaptive immune responses, through the production of antimicrobial molecules and proinflammatory factors against a variety of pathogens, has been well established. Tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease primarily affecting the lungs, is caused by the infection of various strains of mycobacteria. In response to mycobacteria infection, epithelial expression of Toll-like receptors and surfactant proteins plays the most prominent roles in the recognition and binding of the pathogen, as well as the initiation of the immune response. Moreover, the antimicrobial substances, proinflammatory factors secreted by AECs, composed a major part of the innate immune response and mediation of adaptive immunity against the pathogen. Thus, a better understanding of the role and mechanism of AECs in response to mycobacteria will provide insight into the relationship of epithelial cells and lung immunocytes against TB, which may facilitate our understanding of the pathogenesis and immunological mechanism of pulmonary tuberculosis disease.