Background: Cystic fibrosis is a debilitating lung disease due to mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator protein (CFTR) and is associated with chronic infections resulting in elevated myeloperoxidase activity and generation of hypochlorous acid (HOCl). CFTR mutations lead to decreased levels of glutathione (GSH) and thiocyanate (SCN) in the epithelial lining fluid (ELF). Hypertonic saline is used to improve lung function however the mechanism is uncertain.
Methods: In the present study, the effect of GSH and SCN on HOCl-mediated cell injury and their changes in the ELF after hypertonic saline nebulization in wild type (WT) and CFTR KO mice was examined. CFTR sufficient and deficient lung cells were assessed for GSH, SCN and corresponding sensitivity towards HOCl-mediated injury, in vitro.
Results: CFTR (-) cells had lower extracellular levels of both GSH and SCN and were more sensitive to HOCl-mediated injury. In vivo, hypertonic saline increased ELF GSH in the WT and to a lesser extent in the CFTR KO mice but only SCN in the WT ELF. Finally, potential protective effects of GSH and SCN at concentrations found in the ELF against HOCl toxicity were examined in vitro.
Conclusions: While the concentrations of GSH and SCN associated with the WT ELF protect against HOCl toxicity, those found in the CFTR KO mice were less sufficient to inhibit cell injury. These data suggests that CFTR has important roles in exporting GSH and SCN which are protective against oxidants and that hypertonic saline treatment may have beneficial effects by increasing their levels in the lung.