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      CFTR Delivery to 25% of Surface Epithelial Cells Restores Normal Rates of Mucus Transport to Human Cystic Fibrosis Airway Epithelium


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          Delivering CFTR to ciliated cells of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients fully restores ion and fluid transport to the lumenal surface of airway epithelium and returns mucus transport rates to those of non-CF airways.


          Dysfunction of CFTR in cystic fibrosis (CF) airway epithelium perturbs the normal regulation of ion transport, leading to a reduced volume of airway surface liquid (ASL), mucus dehydration, decreased mucus transport, and mucus plugging of the airways. CFTR is normally expressed in ciliated epithelial cells of the surface and submucosal gland ductal epithelium and submucosal gland acinar cells. Critical questions for the development of gene transfer strategies for CF airway disease are what airway regions require CFTR function and how many epithelial cells require CFTR expression to restore normal ASL volume regulation and mucus transport to CF airway epithelium? An in vitro model of human CF ciliated surface airway epithelium (CF HAE) was used to test whether a human parainfluenza virus (PIV) vector engineered to express CFTR (PIVCFTR) could deliver sufficient CFTR to CF HAE to restore mucus transport, thus correcting the CF phenotype. PIVCFTR delivered CFTR to >60% of airway surface epithelial cells and expressed CFTR protein in CF HAE approximately 100-fold over endogenous levels in non-CF HAE. This efficiency of CFTR delivery fully corrected the basic bioelectric defects of Cl and Na + epithelial ion transport and restored ASL volume regulation and mucus transport to levels approaching those of non-CF HAE. To determine the numbers of CF HAE surface epithelial cells required to express CFTR for restoration of mucus transport to normal levels, different amounts of PIVCFTR were used to express CFTR in 3%–65% of the surface epithelial cells of CF HAE and correlated to increasing ASL volumes and mucus transport rates. These data demonstrate for the first time, to our knowledge, that restoration of normal mucus transport rates in CF HAE was achieved after CFTR delivery to 25% of surface epithelial cells. In vivo experimentation in appropriate models will be required to determine what level of mucus transport will afford clinical benefit to CF patients, but we predict that a future goal for corrective gene transfer to the CF human airways in vivo would attempt to target at least 25% of surface epithelial cells to achieve mucus transport rates comparable to those in non-CF airways.

          Author Summary

          The ciliated epithelium that lines the conducting airways of the lung normally functions to transport hydrated mucus secretions out of the airways to maintain respiratory sterility. Cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease results from reduced airway surface hydration leading to decreased mucus clearance that precipitates bacterial infection and progressive obstructive lung disease. CF is a genetic disease, and the mutant protein is a chloride ion channel (CFTR) that normally regulates ion and fluid transport on the airway surface. Restoration of corrected CFTR function to the airway epithelium of CF patients by delivering a new CFTR gene to airway epithelial cells has long been envisioned as a therapeutic strategy for CF lung disease. Towards this goal, we use a novel viral vector to deliver CFTR to a culture model that represents the ciliated airway epithelium of CF patients and show that this strategy restores airway surface hydration and mucus transport to levels of that in non-CF individuals. This study demonstrates efficient and efficacious CFTR delivery to CF ciliated airway epithelium and that CFTR delivered to approximately 25% of the surface epithelial cells restores normal levels of airway surface hydration and mucus transport. These studies serve as a benchmark for the efficiency of CFTR gene delivery to CF airways for future CF gene therapy studies in vivo.

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          Most cited references51

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          Disruption of the CFTR gene produces a model of cystic fibrosis in newborn pigs.

          Almost two decades after CFTR was identified as the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis (CF), we still lack answers to many questions about the pathogenesis of the disease, and it remains incurable. Mice with a disrupted CFTR gene have greatly facilitated CF studies, but the mutant mice do not develop the characteristic manifestations of human CF, including abnormalities of the pancreas, lung, intestine, liver, and other organs. Because pigs share many anatomical and physiological features with humans, we generated pigs with a targeted disruption of both CFTR alleles. Newborn pigs lacking CFTR exhibited defective chloride transport and developed meconium ileus, exocrine pancreatic destruction, and focal biliary cirrhosis, replicating abnormalities seen in newborn humans with CF. The pig model may provide opportunities to address persistent questions about CF pathogenesis and accelerate discovery of strategies for prevention and treatment.
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            CFTR as a cAMP-dependent regulator of sodium channels.

            Cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR), the gene product that is mutated in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, has a well-recognized function as a cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cAMP)-regulated chloride channel, but this property does not account for the abnormally high basal rate and cAMP sensitivity of sodium ion absorption in CF airway epithelia. Expression of complementary DNAs for rat epithelial Na+ channel (rENaC) alone in Madin Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells generated large amiloride-sensitive sodium currents that were stimulated by cAMP, whereas coexpression of human CFTR with rENaC generated smaller basal sodium currents that were inhibited by cAMP. Parallel studies that measured regulation of sodium permeability in fibroblasts showed similar results. In CF airway epithelia, the absence of this second function of CFTR as a cAMP-dependent regulator likely accounts for abnormal sodium transport.
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              Mucus clearance and lung function in cystic fibrosis with hypertonic saline.

              Abnormal homeostasis of the volume of airway surface liquid in patients with cystic fibrosis is thought to produce defects in mucus clearance and airway defense. Through osmotic forces, hypertonic saline may increase the volume of airway surface liquid, restore mucus clearance, and improve lung function. A total of 24 patients with cystic fibrosis were randomly assigned to receive treatment with inhaled hypertonic saline (5 ml of 7 percent sodium chloride) four times daily with or without pretreatment with amiloride. Mucus clearance and lung function were measured during 14-day baseline and treatment periods. Long-term inhalation of hypertonic saline without pretreatment with amiloride (i.e., with placebo pretreatment) resulted in a sustained (> or =8 hours) increase in 1-hour rates of mucus clearance, as compared with those with amiloride pretreatment (14.0+/-2.0 vs. 7.0+/-1.5 percent, respectively; P=0.02) and increased 24-hour rates of mucus clearance over baseline. Furthermore, inhalation of hypertonic saline with placebo improved the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) between the baseline period and the treatment period (mean difference, 6.62 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.6 to 11.7; P=0.02), whereas hypertonic saline with amiloride did not improve FEV1 (mean difference, 2.9 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, -2.2 to 8.0; P=0.23). Forced vital capacity (FVC), the forced expiratory flow between 25 and 75 percent of FVC (FEF25-75), and respiratory symptoms also significantly improved in patients treated with hypertonic saline and placebo, whereas the residual volume as a proportion of total lung capacity (RV:TLC) did not change in either group. A comparison of the changes in lung function in the two groups showed no significant difference. In vitro data suggested that sustained hydration of airway surfaces was responsible for the sustained improvement in mucus clearance, whereas inhibition of osmotically driven water transport by amiloride accounted for the observed loss of clinical benefit. In patients with cystic fibrosis, inhalation of hypertonic saline produced a sustained acceleration of mucus clearance and improved lung function. This treatment may protect the lung from insults that reduce mucus clearance and produce lung disease. Copyright 2006 Massachusetts Medical Society.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS Biol
                PLoS Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                July 2009
                July 2009
                21 July 2009
                : 7
                : 7
                : e1000155
                [1 ]CF/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
                [2 ]Respiratory Viruses Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America
                [3 ]Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Scottsdale, Arizona, United States of America
                [4 ]Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
                Karolinska Institute, Sweden
                Author notes

                The author(s) have made the following declarations about their contributions: Conceived and designed the experiments: LZ BB SEG RCB PLC RJP. Performed the experiments: LZ BB SEG SB YY MHS YLD LNV TM AM RJP. Analyzed the data: LZ BB SEG YY MHS TM RCB PLC RJP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: LZ BB SEG SB MHS YLD LNV PLC RJP. Wrote the paper: LZ BB RJP.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Public Domain declaration which stipulates that, once placed in the public domain, this work may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose.
                : 20 February 2009
                : 11 June 2009
                Page count
                Pages: 17
                Research Article
                Cell Biology/Gene Expression
                Genetics and Genomics/Gene Therapy
                Microbiology/Applied Microbiology
                Physiology/Respiratory Physiology
                Respiratory Medicine/Respiratory Pediatrics
                Virology/Viral Replication and Gene Regulation

                Life sciences
                Life sciences


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