Despite great advances in the understanding of the genetics and pathophysiology of cystic fibrosis (CF), there is still no cure for the disease. Using phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, we and others have provided evidence of rescued F508del-CFTR trafficking and corrected deficient chloride transport activity. Studies using PDE5 inhibitors in mice homozygous for the clinically relevant F508del mutation have been conducted with the aim of restoring F508del-CFTR protein function. We demonstrated, by measuring transepithelial nasal potential difference in F508del mice following intraperitoneal injection of sildenafil, vardenafil, or taladafil at clinical doses are able to restore the decreased CFTR-dependent chloride transport across the nasal mucosa. Moreover, vardenafil, but not sildenafil, stimulates chloride transport through the normal CFTR protein. We developed a specific nebulizer setup for mice, with which we demonstrated, through a single inhalation of PDE5 inhibitors, local activation of CFTR protein in CF. Significant potential advantages of inhalation drug therapy over oral or intravenous routes include rapid onset of pharmacological action, reduced systemic secondary effects, and reduced effective drug doses compared to the drug delivered orally; this underlines the relevance and impact of our work for translational science. More recently, we analyzed the bronchoalveolar lavage of CF and wild-type mice for cell infiltrates and expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines; we found that the CFTR activating effect of vardenafil, selected as a representative long-lasting PDE5 inhibitor, breaks the vicious circle of lung inflammation which plays a major role in morbi-mortality in CF. Our data highlight the potential use of PDE5 inhibitors in CF. Therapeutic approaches using clinically approved PDE5 inhibitors to address F508del-CFTR defects could speed up the development of new therapies for CF.
Keywords: CFTR; PDE5 inhibitors; cystic fibrosis; sildenafil; taladafil; vardenafil.