There is now compelling evidence that proteinases and oxidative stress play pathogenetic roles in the following pathologies in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: airspace enlargement; chronic inflammation in the airways, lung interstitium, and alveolar space; and mucus hypersecretion in the large airways. Proteinases and oxidants may also contribute to remodeling processes in the small airways. In addition, data are emerging that show interactions between classes of proteinases and between proteinases and oxidants, which amplify lung inflammation and injury in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This review discusses the biologic roles of proteinases and oxidants, their roles in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and their potential as targets for therapy.
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