Novel insights in the postnatal role of pulmonary neuroepithelial bodies

      Pulmonary neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs) are small, densely innervated clusters of neuroendocrine cells located in the airway epithelium of all air-breathing vertebrates, including humans. A variety of proposed possible functions of these NEBs in the regulation of physiological events in the lungs have led to many controversies in the past decades. Until recently, these structures were believed to detect local intrapulmonary oxygen levels. Using an ex vivo lung slice model and a combined laser microdissection and RT-PCR approach, we were able to provide proof of the capability of these cells to sense both mechanical and chemical changes in the airways. Apart from being airway sensors, we have evidence to believe that these neuroendocrine cellular aggregates harbor an epithelial stem cell niche, which might disclose the possible link of these cells with the development of small cell lung carcinoma. In addition, the availability of the GAD67-GFP transgenic mouse model further opens new perspectives for unraveling the distinct roles of these cells under normal and inflammatory conditions.
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