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Cellular immune reactions in the lung

Authors

  • Mike Hasenberg,

    1. Institute of Experimental Immunology and Imaging, University of Duisburg/Essen, University Hospital, Essen, Germany
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    • These authors contributed equally

  • Sabine Stegemann-Koniszewski,

    1. Institute of Experimental Immunology and Imaging, University of Duisburg/Essen, University Hospital, Essen, Germany
    2. Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany
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    • These authors contributed equally

  • Matthias Gunzer

    Corresponding author
    • Institute of Experimental Immunology and Imaging, University of Duisburg/Essen, University Hospital, Essen, Germany
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Correspondence to:

Matthias Gunzer

University of Duisburg/Essen, University Hospital, Institute of Experimental Immunology and Imaging

Hufelandstr. 55, Essen 45122, Germany

Tel.: +49 201 183 6640

Fax: +49 201 183 6642

e-mail: Matthias.gunzer@uni-due.de

Summary

The lung constantly interacts with the environment through thousands of liters of air that are inhaled daily. This continually transports toxic chemicals and particles or pathogenic microorganisms deep into the respiratory system, posing a challenge to physicochemical barriers and the local immune system. Thus, complex structures and mechanisms have evolved to recognize and fend off environmental dangers while at the same time allowing efficient gas exchange. Here we review our current knowledge regarding cellular mechanisms of the immune system in context with the highly specialized anatomical features of the airways and especially the alveolar compartment. The focus is on fungal and viral infections, merging anatomical aspects well known to pulmonologists with fundamental immunological concepts. We discuss the specialized morphological constraints of immune cells compressed under a continuous layer of the surfactant lining within alveoli as well as the importance of functional polarization of respiratory tract epithelia. Furthermore, we summarize the different types of innate and adaptive immune cells and their relative contribution to lung homeostasis with respect to localization. Finally, we provide a list of currently unresolved questions with high relevance for the field that might serve as food for thought regarding future research directions.

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