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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 5, Issue 6, Pages 393-416

Chemokines: structure, receptors and functions. A new target for inflammation and asthma therapy?

Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research (LACDR), Department of Pharmacochemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1083, Amsterdam 1081 HV, The Netherlands

Copyright © 1996 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. 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.


Five to 10% of the human population have a disorder of the respiratory tract called ‘asthma’. It has been known as a potentially dangerous disease for over 2000 years, as it was already described by Hippocrates and recognized as a disease entity by Egyptian and Hebrew physicians. At the beginning of this decade, there has been a fundamental change in asthma management. The emphasis has shifted from symptom relief with bronchodilator therapies (e.g. β2-agonists) to a much earlier introduction of anti-inflammatory treatment (e.g. corticosteroids). Asthma is now recognized to be a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, involving various inflammatory cells and their mediators. Although asthma has been the subject of many investigations, the exact role of the different inflammatory cells has not been elucidated completely. Many suggestions have been made and several cells have been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma, such as the eosinophils, the mast cells, the basophils and the lymphocytes. To date, however, the relative importance of these cells is not completely understood. The cell type predominantly found in the asthmatic lung is the eosinophil and the recruitment of these eosinophils can be seen as a characteristic of asthma. In recent years much attention is given to the role of the newly identified chemokines in asthma pathology. Chemokines are structurally and functionally related 8–10 kDa peptides that are the products of distinct genes clustered on human chromosomes 4 and 17 and can be found at sites of inflammation. They form a superfamily of proinflammatory mediators that promote the recruitment of various kinds of leukocytes and lymphocytes. The chemokine superfamily can be divided into three subgroups based on overall sequence homology. Although the chemokines have highly conserved amino acid sequences, each of the chemokines binds to and induces the chemotaxis of particular classes of white blood cells. Certain chemokines stimulate the recruitment of multiple cell types including monocytes, lymphocytes, basophils, and eosinophils, which are important cells in asthma. Intervention in this process, by the development of chemokine antagonists, might be the key to new therapy. In this review we present an overview of recent developments in the field of chemokines and their role in inflammations as reported in literature.