CFTR is a dynamically regulated anion channel. Intracellular WNK1-SPAK activation causes CFTR to change permeability and conductance characteristics from a chloride-preferring to bicarbonate-preferring channel through unknown mechanisms. Two severe CFTR mutations (CFTRsev) cause complete loss of CFTR function and result in cystic fibrosis (CF), a severe genetic disorder affecting sweat glands, nasal sinuses, lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, and male reproductive system. We hypothesize that those CFTR mutations that disrupt the WNK1-SPAK activation mechanisms cause a selective, bicarbonate defect in channel function (CFTRBD) affecting organs that utilize CFTR for bicarbonate secretion (e.g. the pancreas, nasal sinus, vas deferens) but do not cause typical CF. To understand the structural and functional requirements of the CFTR bicarbonate-preferring channel, we (a) screened 984 well-phenotyped pancreatitis cases for candidate CFTRBD mutations from among 81 previously described CFTR variants; (b) conducted electrophysiology studies on clones of variants found in pancreatitis but not CF; (c) computationally constructed a new, complete structural model of CFTR for molecular dynamics simulation of wild-type and mutant variants; and (d) tested the newly defined CFTRBD variants for disease in non-pancreas organs utilizing CFTR for bicarbonate secretion. Nine variants (CFTR R74Q, R75Q, R117H, R170H, L967S, L997F, D1152H, S1235R, and D1270N) not associated with typical CF were associated with pancreatitis (OR 1.5, p = 0.002). Clones expressed in HEK 293T cells had normal chloride but not bicarbonate permeability and conductance with WNK1-SPAK activation. Molecular dynamics simulations suggest physical restriction of the CFTR channel and altered dynamic channel regulation. Comparing pancreatitis patients and controls, CFTRBD increased risk for rhinosinusitis (OR 2.3, p<0.005) and male infertility (OR 395, p≪0.0001). WNK1-SPAK pathway-activated increases in CFTR bicarbonate permeability are altered by CFTRBD variants through multiple mechanisms. CFTRBD variants are associated with clinically significant disorders of the pancreas, sinuses, and male reproductive system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research