The pathogenesis of allergic airway inflammation and disease is complex and still not fully understood. Many cells, factors and mediators are involved in the different aspects of induction, maintenance and persistence of airway inflammation. The heterogeneity and redundancy of this system is one of the main reasons why novel therapeutic targets focusing on the pathogenesis of asthma only hesitantly reach the market and clinical application. Thus, it seems mandatory that we proceed in our efforts to better understand this micro cosmos to succeed in the development of safe and effective drugs for the treatment of more severe and refractory forms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. One of the more recently discovered mediators in the context of airway inflammation are the lipocalins (Lcns). They are a family of proteins that share functional and structural similarities and are involved in the transport of small hydrophobic molecules such as steroids and lipids into the cell. Lcns are found in many different cell types from plants and bacteria through invertebrate cells to cells of vertebrate origin. The purpose of this review is to summarize the role of Lcns in airway diseases, focusing on allergic and infectious inflammation. In particular, we will summarize the present knowledge about Lipocalin 1 and Lipocalin 2, where exciting new discoveries in the recent years have highlighted their role in pulmonary disease and infection. This new class of proteins is another putative candidate for the development of novel drugs against airway inflammation.
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