Current Clinical Microbiology Reports

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 10–17 | Cite as

Respiratory Epithelial Cells as Master Communicators during Viral Infections

  • Tanya A. MiuraEmail author
Virology (A Nicola, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Virology


Purpose of Review

Communication by epithelial cells during respiratory viral infections is critical in orchestrating effective antiviral responses but also can lead to excessive inflammation. This review will evaluate studies that investigate how respiratory epithelial cells influence the behavior of immune cells and how epithelial cell/immune cell interactions contribute to antiviral responses and immunopathology outcomes.

Recent Findings

Previous studies have characterized cytokine responses of virus-infected epithelial cells. More recent studies have carefully demonstrated the effects of these cytokines on cellular behaviors within the infected lung. Infected epithelial cells release exosomes that specifically regulate responses of monocytes and neighboring epithelial cells without promoting spread of virus. In contrast, rhinovirus-infected cells induce monocytes to upregulate expression of the viral receptor, promoting spread of the virus to alternate cell types. The precise alteration of PDL expression on infected epithelial cells has been shown to switch between inhibition and activation of antiviral responses.


These studies have more precisely defined the interactions between epithelial and immune cells during viral infections. This level of understanding is critical for the development of novel therapeutic strategies that promote effective antiviral responses or epithelial repair or inhibit damaging inflammatory responses during severe respiratory viral infections.


Respiratory syncytial virus Influenza A virus Rhinovirus Airway epithelial cells 



T.A. Miura is supported by P20GM104420 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Miura reports grants from NIH/NIGMS, during the conduct of the study.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Modeling Complex InteractionsUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

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