Deletion of cftr Leads to an Excessive Neutrophilic Response and Defective Tissue Repair in a Zebrafish Model of Sterile Inflammation

Front Immunol. 2020 Jul 31:11:1733. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01733. eCollection 2020.


Inflammation-related progressive lung destruction is the leading causes of premature death in cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder caused by a defective cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). However, therapeutic targeting of inflammation has been hampered by a lack of understanding of the links between a dysfunctional CFTR and the deleterious innate immune response in CF. Herein, we used a CFTR-depleted zebrafish larva, as an innovative in vivo vertebrate model, to understand how CFTR dysfunction leads to abnormal inflammatory status in CF. We show that impaired CFTR-mediated inflammation correlates with an exuberant neutrophilic response after injury: CF zebrafish exhibit enhanced and sustained accumulation of neutrophils at wounds. Excessive epithelial oxidative responses drive enhanced neutrophil recruitment towards wounds. Persistence of neutrophils at inflamed sites is associated with impaired reverse migration of neutrophils and reduction in neutrophil apoptosis. As a consequence, the increased number of neutrophils at wound sites causes tissue damage and abnormal tissue repair. Importantly, the molecule Tanshinone IIA successfully accelerates inflammation resolution and improves tissue repair in CF animal. Our findings bring important new understanding of the mechanisms underlying the inflammatory pathology in CF, which could be addressed therapeutically to prevent inflammatory lung damage in CF patients with potential improvements in disease outcomes.

Keywords: CFTR; Tanshione IIA; apoptosis; cystic fibrosis; neutrophil reverse migration; neutrophilic inflammation; tissue repair; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / immunology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / immunology*
  • Wound Healing / immunology*
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins / immunology*


  • CFTR protein, zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator