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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2012 Sep;47(3):324-31. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2012-0003OC. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

4-Phenylbutyric acid treatment rescues trafficking and processing of a mutant surfactant protein-C.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave., MLC7029, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA.


Mutations in the SFTPC gene, encoding surfactant protein-C (SP-C), are associated with interstitial lung disease (ILD). Knowledge of the intracellular fate of mutant SP-C is essential in the design of therapies to correct trafficking/processing of the proprotein, and to prevent the formation of cytotoxic aggregates. We assessed the potential of a chemical chaperone to correct the trafficking and processing of three disease-associated mutant SP-C proteins. HEK293 cells were stably transfected with wild-type (SP-C(WT)) or mutant (SP-C(L188Q), SP-C(Δexon4), or SP-C(I73T)) SP-C, and cell lines with a similar expression of SP-C mRNA were identified. The effects of the chemical chaperone 4-phenylbutyric acid (PBA) and lysosomotropic drugs on intracellular trafficking to the endolysosomal pathway and the subsequent conversion of SP-C proprotein to mature peptide were assessed. Despite comparable SP-C mRNA expression, proprotein concentrations varied greatly: SP-C(I73T) was more abundant than SP-C(WT) and was localized to the cell surface, whereas SP-C(Δexon4) was barely detectable. In contrast, SP-C(L188Q) and SP-C(WT) proprotein concentrations were comparable, and a small amount of SP-C(L188Q) was localized to the endolysosomal pathway. PBA treatment restored the trafficking and processing of SP-C(L188Q) to SP-C(WT) concentrations, but did not correct the mistrafficking of SP-C(I73T) or rescue SP-C(Δexon4). PBA treatment also promoted the aggregation of SP-C proproteins, including SP-C(L188Q). This study provides proof of the principle that a chemical chaperone can correct the mistrafficking and processing of a disease-associated mutant SP-C proprotein.

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