The dietary group IIb metal zinc (Zn) plays essential housekeeping roles in cellular metabolism and gene expression. It regulates a number of cellular processes including mitosis, apoptosis, secretion and signal transduction as well as critical events in physiological processes as diverse as insulin release, T cell cytokine production, wound healing, vision and neurotransmission. Critical to these processes are the mechanisms that regulate Zn homeostasis in cells and tissues. The proteins that control Zn uptake and compartmentalization are rapidly being identified and characterized. Recently, the first images of sub-cellular pools of Zn in airway epithelium have been obtained. This review discusses what we currently know about Zn in the airways, both in the normal and inflamed states, and then considers how we might target Zn metabolism by developing strategies to monitor and manipulate airway Zn levels in airway disease.
Keywords: Zinc, Zinc transporters, Airway epithelium, Airway inflammation, Asthma, Zinc fluorophores, Zinc deficiency, Zinc supplementation
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