Archives of histology and cytology vol:62 issue:1 pages:1-16
The pulmonary neuroendocrine system consists of specialized airway endocrine epithelial cells, associated with nerve fibres. The epithelial cells, the pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (PNEC), can be solitary or clustered to form neuroepithelial bodies (NEB). During the last thirty years, the pulmonary neuroendocrine system has been intensively investigated and much knowledge of its function has been obtained. This text reviews work which dates from the last ten years. In this period, the picture of the pulmonary neuroendocrine system we previously had, has not fundamentally changed. The pulmonary neuroendocrine system is still regarded as an oxygen sensitive chemoreceptor with local and reflex-mediated regulatory functions, and as a regulator of airway growth and development. Continuing research has much more refined this picture. This text reviews several aspects of the pulmonary neuroendocrine system: phylogeny, the amine and peptide content of its epithelial cells, ontogeny and influence on lung development, the influence of hypoxia and nonhypoxic stimuli, immunomodulatory function, innervation and pathology. Among the discoveries of the past decade, three stand out prominently because of their great significance: additional proof that the neural component of the pulmonary neuroendocrine system is sensory, sound experimental evidence that PNEC stimulate airway epithelial cell differentiation and the discovery of a specific membrane oxygen receptor in the PNEC.