Cellular and molecular characteristics of basal cells in airway epithelium

M. J. Evans, L. S. Van Winkle, M. V. Fanucchi, Charles Plopper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Basal cells exist as a separate layer of cells covering most of the airway basal lamina. In this central position, they can interact with columnar epithelium, neurons, basement membrane, and the underlying mesenchymal cells. In addition, they interact with inflammatory cells, lymphocytes and dendritic cells. These interactions take place in the lateral intercellular space between basal cells. In this central position basal cells become a very important part of the epithelial-mesenchymal trophic unit of larger airways. In this review it is shown that basal cells may function as progenitor cells of airway epithelium and have a role in attachment of columnar epithelium with the basement membrane. They also have the potential to function in regulation of neurogenic inflammation, the inflammatory response, transepithelial water movement, oxidant defense of the tissue and formation of the lateral intercellular space. Other characteristics of basal cells were not clearly associated with a particular function. The functions for basal cells listed attempt to explain the presence of recently identified molecules in basal cells of airway epithelium. It should be pointed out that specific studies have not been carried out which test the relationship between the molecular functions we describe in this review and the basal cell in airway epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-415
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Lung Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001


  • Airway epithelium
  • Epithelial attachment
  • Epithelial-mesenchymal
  • Inflammation
  • Lateral intercellular space
  • Progenitor cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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