Defective chloride transport in epithelial cells increases mucus viscosity and leads to recurrent infections with high oxidative stress in patients with CF (cystic fibrosis). NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is a well known mucolytic and antioxidant drug, and an indirect precursor of glutathione. Since GSNO (S-nitrosoglutathione) previously has been shown to be able to promote Cl- efflux from CF airway epithelial cells, it was investigated whether NAC also could stimulate Cl- efflux from CF and non-CF epithelial cells and through which mechanisms. CFBE (CF bronchial epithelial cells) and normal bronchial epithelial cells (16HBE) were treated with 1 mM, 5 mM, 10 mM or 15 mM NAC for 4 h at 37 degrees C. The effect of NAC on Cl- transport was measured by Cl- efflux measurements and by X-ray microanalysis. Cl- efflux from CFBE cells was stimulated by NAC in a dose-dependent manner, with 10 mM NAC causing a significant increase in Cl- efflux with nearly 80% in CFBE cells. The intracellular Cl- concentration in CFBE cells was significantly decreased up to 60% after 4 h treatment with 10 mM NAC. Moreover immunocytochemistry and Western blot experiments revealed expression of CFTR channel on CFBE cells after treatment with 10 mM NAC. The stimulation of Cl- efflux by NAC in CF airway epithelial cells may improve hydration of the mucus and thereby be beneficial for CF patients.