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J Physiol. 2011 Jun 1;589(Pt 11):2719-31. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.202861. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

The most common cystic fibrosis-associated mutation destabilizes the dimeric state of the nucleotide-binding domains of CFTR.

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Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, University of Missouri, 134 Research Park Drive, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a chloride channel that belongs to the ATP binding cassette (ABC) superfamily. The deletion of the phenylalanine 508 (ΔF508-CFTR) is the most common mutation among cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. The mutant channels present a severe trafficking defect, and the few channels that reach the plasma membrane are functionally impaired. Interestingly, an ATP analogue, N6-(2-phenylethyl)-2′-deoxy-ATP (P-dATP), can increase the open probability (Po) to ∼0.7, implying that the gating defect of ΔF508 may involve the ligand binding domains, such as interfering with the formation or separation of the dimeric states of the nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs). To test this hypothesis, we employed two approaches developed for gauging the stability of the NBD dimeric states using the patch-clamp technique. We measured the locked-open time induced by pyrophosphate (PPi), which reflects the stability of the full NBD dimer state, and the ligand exchange time for ATP/N6-(2-phenylethyl)-ATP (P-ATP), which measures the stability of the partial NBD dimer state wherein the head of NBD1 and the tail of NBD2 remain associated. We found that both the PPi-induced locked-open time and the ATP/P-ATP ligand exchange time of ΔF508-CFTR channels are dramatically shortened, suggesting that the ΔF508 mutation destabilizes the full and partial NBD dimer states. We also tested if mutations that have been shown to improve trafficking of ΔF508-CFTR, namely the solubilizing mutation F494N/Q637R and ΔRI (deletion of the regulatory insertion), exert any effects on these newly identified functional defects associated with ΔF508-CFTR. Our results indicate that although these mutations increase the membrane expression and function of ΔF508-CFTR, they have limited impact on the stability of both full and partial NBD dimeric states for ΔF508 channels. The structure-function insights gained from this mechanism may provide clues for future drug design.

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