Cystic fibrosis (CF) is caused by mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) Cl- channel gene. CF mutations like ΔF508 cause both a mistrafficking of the protein and a gating defect. Other mutations, like G551D, cause only a gating defect. Our aim was to find chemical compounds able to stimulate the activity of CFTR mutant proteins by screening a library containing approved drugs. Two thousand compounds were tested on Fischer rat thyroid cells coexpressing ΔF508-CFTR and a halide-sensitive yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) after correction of the trafficking defect by low-temperature incubation. The YFP-based screening allowed the identification of the antihypertensive 1,4-dihydropyridines (DHPs) nifedipine, nicardipine, nimodipine, isradipine, nitrendipine, felodipine, and niguldipine as compounds able to activate ΔF508-CFTR. This effect was not derived from the inhibition of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels, the pharmacological target of antihypertensive DHPs. Indeed, methyl-1,4-dihydro-2,6- dimethyl-3-nitro-4-2(trifluoromethylphenyl)pyridine-5-carboxylate (BayK-8644), a DHP that is effective as an activator of such channels, also stimulated CFTR activity. DHPs were also effective on the G551D-CFTR mutant by inducing a 16- to 45-fold increase of the CFTR Cl- currents. DHP activity was confirmed in airway epithelial cells from patients with CF. DHPs may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents able to correct the defect caused by a set of CF mutations.
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