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J Physiol. 1997 Jun 15;501 ( Pt 3):637-47.

Fluid transport across cultures of human tracheal glands is altered in cystic fibrosis.

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School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley 94720, USA.


1. There is evidence that defective submucosal gland secretion contributes to the airway pathology of cystic fibrosis (CF). Using a capacitance probe technique, we have compared fluid transport across submucosal gland cultures from individuals with and without CF. 2. Under baseline conditions, approximately 60% of non-CF cultures secreted fluid; the rest absorbed. In secreting tissues, amiloride increased secretion, whereas in absorbing tissues it reduced or reversed absorption. 5-Nitro-2(3-phenylpropylamino)-benzoate (NPPB) a blocker of the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), converted secretion to absorption. Thus, the direction and magnitude of baseline fluid movement depended on a balance between active absorption of Na+ and cAMP-dependent secretion of Cl-. 3. 8-(4-Chlorophenylthio)-adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (CPT-cAMP), methacholine and luminal uridine 5'-triphosphate (UTP) all induced or increased fluid secretion across non-CF cultures. Results with NPPB and with 4,4'-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2'-disulphonate (DIDS), a blocker of Ca(2+)-activated Cl- channels, suggested that fluid secretion induced by CPT-cAMP was mediated primarily by CFTR; UTP acted entirely via Ca(2+)-activated Cl- channels, and methacholine activated both pathways. 4. All CF cultures showed baseline fluid absorption, which was abolished by amiloride. 5. CF cultures showed a normal secretory response to UTP, a reduced response to methacholine, and no response to CPT-cAMP. 6. Thus, the absorptive processes of airway glands are retained in CF, but the cAMP-dependent secretory process is lost. This would markedly reduce the water content of gland secretions. The resulting change in viscosity would contribute to the accumulation of airway mucus which is characteristic of this disease.

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