Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the airways

Y. S. Prakash, Richard J. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


In addition to their well-known roles in the nervous system, there is increasing recognition that neurotrophins such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as well as their receptors are expressed in peripheral tissues including the lung, and can thus potentially contribute to both normal physiology and pathophysiology of several diseases. The relevance of this family of growth factors lies in emerging clinical data indicating altered neurotrophin levels and function in a range of diseases including neonatal and adult asthma, sinusitis, influenza, and lung cancer. The current review focuses on 1) the importance of BDNF expression and signaling mechanisms in early airway and lung development, critical to both normal neonatal lung function and also its disruption in prematurity and insults such as inflammation and infection; 2) how BDNF, potentially derived from airway nerves modulate neurogenic control of airway tone, a key aspect of airway reflexes as well as dysfunctional responses to allergic inflammation; 3) the emerging idea that local BDNF production by resident airway cells such as epithelium and airway smooth muscle can contribute to normal airway structure and function, and to airway hyperreactivity and remodeling in diseases such as asthma. Furthermore, given its pleiotropic effects in the airway, BDNF may be a novel and appealing therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-86
Number of pages13
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Asthma
  • Development
  • Fibrosis
  • Inflammation
  • Lung
  • Neurotrophin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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