Chronic obstructive lung diseases are characterized by the inability to prevent bacterial infection and a gradual loss of lung function caused by recurrent inflammatory responses. In the past decade, numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of nucleotide-mediated bacterial clearance. Their interaction with P2 receptors on airway epithelia provides a rapid ‘on-and-off’ signal stimulating mucus secretion, cilia beating activity and surface hydration. On the other hand, abnormally high ATP levels resulting from damaged epithelia and bacterial lysis may cause lung edema and exacerbate inflammatory responses. Airway ATP concentrations are regulated by ecto nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolases (E-NTPDases) which are expressed on the mucosal surface and catalyze the sequential dephosphorylation of nucleoside triphosphates to nucleoside monophosphates (ATP → ADP → AMP). The common bacterial product, Pseudomonas aeruginosa lipopolysaccharide (LPS), induces an acute reduction in azide-sensitive E-NTPDase activities, followed by a sustained increase in activity as well as NTPDase 1 and NTPDase 3 expression. Accordingly, chronic lung diseases, including cystic fibrosis (CF) and primary ciliary dyskinesia, are characterized by higher rates of nucleotide elimination, azide-sensitive E-NTPDase activities and expression. This review integrates the biphasic regulation of airway E-NTPDases with the function of purine signaling in lung diseases. During acute insults, a transient reduction in E-NTPDase activities may be beneficial to stimulate ATP-mediated bacterial clearance. In chronic lung diseases, elevating E-NTPDase activities may represent an attempt to prevent P2 receptor desensitization and nucleotide-mediated lung damage.