Pharmacological induction of CFTR function in patients with cystic fibrosis: mutation-specific therapy

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2005 Sep;40(3):183-96. doi: 10.1002/ppul.20200.


CFTR mutations cause defects of CFTR protein production and function by different molecular mechanisms. Mutations can be classified according to the mechanisms by which they disrupt CFTR function. This understanding of the different molecular mechanisms of CFTR dysfunction provides the scientific basis for the development of targeted drugs for mutation-specific therapy of cystic fibrosis (CF). Class I mutations are nonsense mutations that result in the presence of a premature stop codon that leads to the production of unstable mRNA, or the release from the ribosome of a short, truncated protein that is not functional. Aminoglycoside antibiotics can suppress premature termination codons by disrupting translational fidelity and allowing the incorporation of an amino acid, thus permitting translation to continue to the normal termination of the transcript. Class II mutations cause impairment of CFTR processing and folding in the Golgi. As a result, the mutant CFTR is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and eventually targeted for degradation by the quality control mechanisms. Chemical and molecular chaperones such as sodium-4-phenylbutyrate can stabilize protein structure, and allow it to escape from degradation in the ER and be transported to the cell membrane. Class III mutations disrupt the function of the regulatory domain. CFTR is resistant to phosphorylation or adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) binding. CFTR activators such as alkylxanthines (CPX) and the flavonoid genistein can overcome affected ATP binding through direct binding to a nucleotide binding fold. In patients carrying class IV mutations, phosphorylation of CFTR results in reduced chloride transport. Increases in the overall cell surface content of these mutants might overcome the relative reduction in conductance. Alternatively, restoring native chloride pore characteristics pharmacologically might be effective. Activators of CFTR at the plasma membrane may function by promoting CFTR phosphorylation, by blocking CFTR dephosphorylation, by interacting directly with CFTR, and/or by modulation of CFTR protein-protein interactions. Class V mutations affect the splicing machinery and generate both aberrantly and correctly spliced transcripts, the levels of which vary among different patients and among different organs of the same patient. Splicing factors that promote exon inclusion or factors that promote exon skipping can promote increases of correctly spliced transcripts, depending on the molecular defect. Inconsistent results were reported regarding the required level of corrected or mutated CFTR that had to be reached in order to achieve normal function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology
  • Chlorophenols / pharmacology
  • Codon, Nonsense / drug effects
  • Codon, Nonsense / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / agonists
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / drug effects*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Milrinone / pharmacology
  • Molecular Chaperones / drug effects
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism
  • Mutation / drug effects*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Xanthines / pharmacology


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Chlorophenols
  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Xanthines
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator
  • NS 004
  • Milrinone