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Predominant constitutive CFTR conductance in small airways

Xiaofei Wang1, Christian Lytle2 and Paul M Quinton12*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. Pediatrics, Medical School, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA USA

2 Dept. Biomedical Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA USA

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Respiratory Research 2005, 6:7  doi:10.1186/1465-9921-6-7

Published: 17 January 2005



The pathological hallmarks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are inflammation of the small airways (bronchiolitis) and destruction of lung parenchyma (emphysema). These forms of disease arise from chronic prolonged infections, which are usually never present in the normal lung. Despite the fact that primary hygiene and defense of the airways presumably requires a well controlled fluid environment on the surface of the bronchiolar airway, very little is known of the fluid and electrolyte transport properties of airways of less than a few mm diameter.


We introduce a novel approach to examine some of these properties in a preparation of minimally traumatized porcine bronchioles of about 1 mm diameter by microperfusing the intact bronchiole.


In bilateral isotonic NaCl Ringer solutions, the spontaneous transepithelial potential (TEP; lumen to bath) of the bronchiole was small (mean ± sem: -3 ± 1 mV; n = 25), but when gluconate replaced luminal Cl-, the bionic Cl- diffusion potentials (-58 ± 3 mV; n = 25) were as large as -90 mV. TEP diffusion potentials from 2:1 NaCl dilution showed that epithelial Cl- permeability was at least 5 times greater than Na+ permeability. The anion selectivity sequence was similar to that of CFTR. The bionic TEP became more electronegative with stimulation by luminal forskolin (5 μM)+IBMX (100 μM), ATP (100 μM), or adenosine (100 μM), but not by ionomycin. The TEP was partially inhibited by NPPB (100 μM), GlyH-101* (5–50 μM), and CFTRInh-172* (5 μM). RT-PCR gave identifying products for CFTR, α-, β-, and γ-ENaC and NKCC1. Antibodies to CFTR localized specifically to the epithelial cells lining the lumen of the small airways.


These results indicate that the small airway of the pig is characterized by a constitutively active Cl- conductance that is most likely due to CFTR.