The nature of persistent airway hyperreactivity and chronic inflammation in asthma remains unclear. It has been suggested that bi-directional neuro–immune interaction plays an important role in the pathogenesis of this disease, leading to enhanced airway narrowing after contact with unspecific stimuli, as well as infiltration, activation and degranulation of several immune cell subtypes. Important mediators in neuro-immune cross-talk are neurotrophins, which are produced by cells at the site of inflammation. In addition to modulating the function of several leucocyte subsets, they play an important role in the synthesis of neuropeptides by sensory nerve cells. Neuropeptides have been shown to cause smooth-muscle contraction and, in addition, modulate the production of pro-inflammatory molecules by leucocytes. The aim of the present review is to provide an overview of the molecular mechanisms by which neurotrophins and neuropeptides are involved in neuro–immune cross-talk in allergic asthma.

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