Thickening of the basement membrane zone (BMZ) is a characteristic feature of airway remodeling in the
lungs of asthmatics. However the significance of a thickened BMZ in the pathology of the asthmatic airway is not known.
In this review we show that the columnar epithelium is linked to the reticular BMZ through the supracellular anchoring
network. We discuss the evidence that changes in the width of the BMZ in control airways are part of a supracellular
anchoring mechanism for increasing the strength of attachment between the airway epithelium and the extracellular matrix
(ECM). We then review the effects of asthma on this anchoring mechanism. We conclude that both thickening of the
BMZ and sloughing of columnar epithelium (creola bodies) in asthma represent abnormalities in the supracellular
anchoring network attaching the airway epithelium to the ECM. Future research directed toward studying the regulation
and development of the supracellular anchoring network may help better understand sloughing of columnar epithelium
and the significance of reticular BMZ thickening in the asthmatic airway.
Keywords: Airway epithelium, asthma, basement membrane zone, supracellular anchoring network.
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