The role of protease activation of inflammation in allergic respiratory diseases

Charles E. Reed, Hirohito Kita

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

284 Scopus citations


Extracellular endogenous proteases, as well as exogenous proteases from mites and molds, react with cell-surface receptors in the airways to generate leukocyte infiltration and to amplify the response to allergens. Stimulation leads to increased intracellular Ca ++ and gene transcription. The most thoroughly investigated receptors, protease-activated receptors (PARs), are 7-transmembrane proteins coupled to G proteins. PARs are widely distributed on the cells of the airways, where they contribute to the inflammation characteristic of allergic diseases. PAR stimulation of epithelial cells opens tight junctions, causes desquamation, and produces cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors. They degranulate eosinophils and mast cells. Proteases contract bronchial smooth muscle and cause it to proliferate. PARs also promote maturation, proliferation, and collagen production of fibroblast precursors and mature fibroblasts. PAR-2, apparently the most important of the 4 PARs that have been characterized, is increased on the epithelium of patients with asthma. Trypsin, a product of injured epithelial cells, and mast cell tryptase are potent activators of PAR-2. Mast cell chymase activates PAR-1. Proteases from mites and molds appear to act through similar receptors. They amplify IgE production to allergens, degranulate eosinophils, and can generate inflammation, even in the absence of IgE. Proteases produced by Aspergillus species to support its growth are presumably responsible for the exuberant IgE, IgG, and granulomatous response of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Similar proteases from molds germinating on the respiratory mucosa have been recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic hyperplastic rhinitis and polyps and, by extension, of intrinsic asthma. Finally, proteases from mites and fungi growing in damp, water-damaged buildings might be the basis for the increased prevalence in these buildings of rhinitis, asthma, and other respiratory diseases. Future research promises to promote our understanding of the pathogenesis of allergic respiratory diseases and point the way to new therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1008
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Allergen
  • allergic inflammation
  • asthma
  • proteases
  • sinusitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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