The essential features of persistent severe asthma include structural changes in the airway wall (remodelling). It is not known whether these are the sequelae of chronic inflammation or indeed its initiators. Several transcription factors have been implicated in the inflammatory process in asthma, including the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), NFκB, Activator Protein-1 (AP-1), Nuclear Factor of Activated T-cells (NF-AT), cyclic AMP Response Element Binding Protein and more recently, the CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein (C/EBP), Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptor (PPAR) and the bZIP transcription factor, Nrf2. Could a pathological de-regulation of one of these transcription factors explain the broad spectrum of asthma pathology and can their modulation lead to better symptom control? Although some of the transcription factors seem to be valid targets (NFkB, Nrf2 or STAT6) or tools (PPARγ, -α and C/EBP-α) for new therapeutic approaches, since many transcription factors play a central role in tissue and organ homeostasis, a longterm general suppression or overexpression, would cause severe side effects in other organs. Cell type specific application of decoy or antisense oligonucleotides for NFκB, Nrf2 or STAT6, or specific agonists for PPARγ and -α may help to control the inflammatory response in lung epithelial cells and infiltrated immune cells, but additional, unwanted, effects on other resident cells of the lung cannot be excluded and a beneficial effect over known antiasthma drugs has first to be proven. In order to progress with such novel therapeutic strategies, the only option seems to be to link transcription factor inhibitors/activators to a cell type specific delivery system.
Keywords: asthma, airway remodelling, airway smooth muscle, transcription factors, asthma therapy