Hyposecretion, not hyperabsorption, is the basic defect of cystic fibrosis airway glands

Soo Joo Nam, Toshiya Irokawa, Robert C. Robbins, Jeffrey J. Wine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Human airways and glands express the anion channel cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, CFTR, and the epithelial Na+ channel, ENaC. Cystic fibrosis (CF) airway glands fail to secrete mucus in response to vasoactive intestinal peptide or forskolin; the failure was attributed to loss of CFTR-mediated anion and fluid secretion. Alternatively, CF glands might secrete acinar fluid via CFTR-independent pathways, but the exit of mucus from the glands could be blocked by hyperabsorption of fluid in the gland ducts. This could occur because CFTR loss can disinhibit ENaC, and ENaC activity can drive absorption. To test these two hypotheses, we measured single gland mucus secretion optically and applied ENaC inhibitors to determine whether they augmented secretion. Human CF glands were pretreated with benzamil and then stimulated with forskolin in the continued presence of benzamil. Benzamil did not rescue the lack of secretion to forskolin (50 glands, 6 CF subjects) nor did it increase the rate of cholinergically mediated mucus secretion from CF glands. Finally, neither benzamil nor amiloride increased forskolin-stimulated mucus secretion from porcine submucosal glands (75 glands, 7 pigs). One possible explanation for these results is that ENaC within the gland ducts was not active in our experiments. Consistent with that possibility, we discovered that human airway glands express Kunitz-type and non-Kunitz serine protease inhibitors, which might prevent proteolytic activation of ENaC. Our results suggest that CF glands do not display excessive, ENaC-mediated fluid absorption, leaving defective, anion-mediated fluid secretion as the most likely mechanism for defective mucus secretion from CF glands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7392-7398
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 17 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hyposecretion, not hyperabsorption, is the basic defect of cystic fibrosis airway glands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this