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Progenitor Cells in Proximal Airway Epithelial Development and Regeneration

Authors

  • Thomas J. Lynch,

    1. Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa
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  • John F. Engelhardt

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa
    2. Center for Gene Therapy, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa
    • Correspondence to: John F. Engelhardt, PhD, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Iowa, Room 1-111 BSB, 51 Newton Road, Iowa City, IA 52242.

      E-mail: john-engelhardt@uiowa.edu

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ABSTRACT

Multiple distinct epithelial domains are found throughout the airway that are distinguishable by location, structure, function, and cell-type composition. Several progenitor cell populations in the proximal airway have been identified to reside in confined microenvironmental niches including the submucosal glands (SMGs), which are embedded in the tracheal connective tissue between the surface epithelium and cartilage, and basal cells that reside within the surface airway epithelium (SAE). Current research suggests that regulatory pathways that coordinate development of the proximal airway and establishment of progenitor cell niches may overlap with pathways that control progenitor cell responses during airway regeneration following injury. SMGs have been shown to harbor epithelial progenitor cells, and this niche is dysregulated in diseases such as cystic fibrosis. However, mechanisms that regulate progenitor cell proliferation and maintenance within this glandular niche are not completely understood. Here we discuss glandular progenitor cells during development and regeneration of the proximal airway and compare properties of glandular progenitors to those of basal cell progenitors in the SAE. Further investigation into glandular progenitor cell control will provide a direction for interrogating therapeutic interventions to correct aberrant conditions affecting the SMGs in diseases such as cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. J. Cell. Biochem. 115: 1637–1645, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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