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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2013 Jan 1;3(1):a009555. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a009555.

Status of fluid and electrolyte absorption in cystic fibrosis.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, UCSD School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Salt and fluid absorption is a shared function of many of the body's epithelia, but its use is highly adapted to the varied physiological roles of epithelia-lined organs. These functions vary from control of hydration of outward-facing epithelial surfaces to conservation and regulation of total body volume. In the most general context, salt and fluid absorption is driven by active Na(+) absorption. Cl(-) is absorbed passively through various available paths in response to the electrical driving force that results from active Na(+) absorption. Absorption of salt creates a concentration gradient that causes water to be absorbed passively, provided the epithelium is water permeable. Key differences notwithstanding, the transport elements used for salt and fluid absorption are broadly similar in diverse epithelia, but the regulation of these elements enables salt absorption to be tailored to very different physiological needs. Here we focus on salt absorption by exocrine glands and airway epithelia. In cystic fibrosis, salt and fluid absorption by gland duct epithelia is effectively prevented by the loss of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). In airway epithelia, salt and fluid absorption persists, in the absence of CFTR-mediated Cl(-) secretion. The contrast of these tissue-specific changes in CF tissues is illustrative of how salt and fluid absorption is differentially regulated to accomplish tissue-specific physiological objectives.

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