Asthma is a disorder that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and constrict, making sufferers wheeze, cough and grapple with shortness of breath and chest tightness. The Journal of Biological Chemistry has played, and will continue to play, a critical role in better understanding the molecular basis for the illness and, ultimately, identifying improved therapies for patients. To highlight JBC authors’ contributions to the study of the molecular basis of asthma, the late JBC associate editor Dale J. Benos first conceived a thematic minireview series on asthma; the series was later completed by associate editor Luke O’Neill.
Asthma research is multidisciplinary and includes immunology, gene expression, signal transduction and ion channel regulation. In the first minireview, Miguel A. Valverde, Gerard Cantero-Recasens, Anna Garcia-Elias, Carole Jung, Amado Carreras-Sureda and Ruben Vicente at the Pomeu Fabra University in Spain discuss ion channels. In the airways, ion channels are involved in the production of epithelial-based hydroelectrolytic secretions and in the control of intracellular Ca2+ levels that activate almost all lung cells. Ion channels are the focus of many studies that seek to better understand asthma pathophysiological mechanisms or to identify therapeutic targets. The review covers animal models, molecular and genetic studies, and clinical observations that relate ion channel activity to the pathogenesis of asthma.
Allergic asthma is a chronic, airway inflammatory disease in which patients exposed to allergens suffer from intermittent attacks of breathlessness, airway hyper-reactivity, wheezing and coughing. Allergic asthma stems from a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. The second minireview, by Anil B. Mukherjee and Zhongjian Zhang at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, discusses how genetic and environmental factors culminate in allergic asthma. The authors describe how difficult it is to study allergic responses in asthma because the complex array of signaling reactions is not easily reproduced in animal models.