Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an inflammatory disease. Together with oxidant stimuli, which directly affect lung structures, macrophages, neutrophils and CD8+ lymphocytes actively participate in the pathogenesis of the disease and promote biochemical reactions that result in progressive alteration of the upper airways and irreversible lung remodeling. The release of substances promoted by inflammatory cell recruitment and by oxidative stress lead to a temporary imbalance in the pulmonary defense mechanisms. Understanding the long-term maintenance of this imbalance is key to understanding the current physiopathology of the disease. The present study explores the cellular and molecular alterations seen in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.