Editors' ChoiceImmunology

Chitin Degradation and Asthma

Science's STKE  15 Jun 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 237, pp. tw215-TW215
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2372004tw215

Chitinases have multiple functions in lower eukaryotes and prokaryotes, including defense against parasites. Although similar functions of mammalian chitinases have yet to be observed, the strong similarity between antiparasitic immunity and asthma in humans led Zhu et al. to explore whether chitinases are involved in asthma pathogenesis. Acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase) was increased both in asthmatic human lung tissue and in a mouse model of induced asthma. AMCase inhibition in the mouse model reduced inflammation by its effects on cytokines involved in the T helper 2 pathway, most specifically interleukin-13. Thus, AMCase and possibly other chitinases may prove valuable therapeutic targets in asthma and other allergic conditions.

Z. Zhu, T. Zheng, R. J. Homer, Y.-K. Kim, N. Y. Chen, L. Cohn, Q. Hamid, J. A. Elias, Acidic mammalian chitinase in asthmatic Th2 inflammation and IL-13 pathway activation. Science 304, 1678-1682 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]