Regulation of human airway surface liquid

Jonathan Widdicombe, J. G. Widdicombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Human airways are lined with a film of liquid from 5-100 μm in depth, consisting of a periciliary sol around and a mucous gel above the cilia. Microscopical studies have shown the sol to be invariably the same depth as the length of the cilia, and we discuss possible reasons for this. The composition and sources of the airway surface liquid are also described. In addition the forces regulating its volume are analyzed. Several airway diseases are characterised by dramatic changes in the volume and composition of airway liquid. We review recent research suggesting that the accumulation of airway mucous secretions in cystic fibrosis is caused by alterations in active transport of ions and water across both the surface and gland epithelia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-12
Number of pages10
JournalRespiration Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Airways, surface liquid
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Liquid, surface, airways
  • Mammals, humans
  • Regulation, airway surface liquid
  • Transport, mucociliary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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