Toxicology of Inhaled Materials

Volume 75 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 319-367

Mucociliary Clearance and Mucus Secretion in the Lung

  • Jennifer M. Sturgess

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The drainage of the nose, sinuses, and bronchial tree is accomplished by essentially the same biomechanical principles — the mucociliary clearance mechanism. Described originally in the nose (Yates 1924), sinuses (Hilding 1932), and bronchi (Hilding 1957) as “ciliary streaming”, the airways are considered to have an overlying, continuous mucous blanket that is dimensionally thin, but has a high viscosity so that it sustains limited traction. Under the motivation of ciliary action, mucus moves as a sheet in the nasal passages and from the bronchial tree to the larynx, passing over the posterior margin to the pharynx. Areas lacking cilia are thought to be cleared by traction of the mucous blanket from surrounding ciliated areas.