Secretory Cells Dominate Airway CFTR Expression and Function in Human Airway Superficial Epithelia.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Rationale: Identification of the specific cell types expressing CFTR (cystic fibrosis [CF] transmembrane conductance regulator) is required for precision medicine therapies for CF. However, a full characterization of CFTR expression in normal human airway epithelia is missing. Objectives: To identify the cell types that contribute to CFTR expression and function within the proximal-distal axis of the normal human lung. Methods: Single-cell RNA (scRNA) sequencing (scRNA-seq) was performed on freshly isolated human large and small airway epithelial cells. scRNA in situ hybridization (ISH) and single-cell qRT-PCR were performed for validation. In vitro culture systems correlated CFTR function with cell types. Lentiviruses were used for cell type-specific transduction of wild-type CFTR in CF cells. Measurements and Main Results: scRNA-seq identified secretory cells as dominating CFTR expression in normal human large and, particularly, small airway superficial epithelia, followed by basal cells. Ionocytes expressed the highest CFTR levels but were rare, whereas the expression in ciliated cells was infrequent and low. scRNA ISH and single-cell qRT-PCR confirmed the scRNA-seq findings. CF lungs exhibited distributions of CFTR and ionocytes similar to those of normal control subjects. CFTR mediated Cl- secretion in cultures tracked secretory cell, but not ionocyte, densities. Furthermore, the nucleotide-purinergic regulatory system that controls CFTR-mediated hydration was associated with secretory cells and not with ionocytes. Lentiviral transduction of wild-type CFTR produced CFTR-mediated Cl- secretion in CF airway secretory cells but not in ciliated cells. Conclusions: Secretory cells dominate CFTR expression and function in human airway superficial epithelia. CFTR therapies may need to restore CFTR function to multiple cell types, with a focus on secretory cells.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Okuda, K; Dang, H; Kobayashi, Y; Carraro, G; Nakano, S; Chen, G; Kato, T; Asakura, T; Gilmore, RC; Morton, LC; Lee, RE; Mascenik, T; Yin, W-N; Barbosa Cardenas, SM; O'Neal, YK; Minnick, CE; Chua, M; Quinney, NL; Gentzsch, M; Anderson, CW; Ghio, A; Matsui, H; Nagase, T; Ostrowski, LE; Grubb, BR; Olsen, JC; Randell, SH; Stripp, BR; Tata, PR; O'Neal, WK; Boucher, RC

Published Date

  • May 15, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 203 / 10

Start / End Page

  • 1275 - 1289

PubMed ID

  • 33321047

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8456462

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1535-4970

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1164/rccm.202008-3198OC


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States