CFTR gene transfer reduces the binding of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to cystic fibrosis respiratory epithelium

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1997 Jun;16(6):657-63. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.16.6.9191467.


Much of the morbidity and mortality seen in cystic fibrosis (CF) is related to chronic infection of the respiratory tract with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Some studies have attributed the strong relationship between CF and Pseudomonas colonization to the presence of increased numbers of specific cell-surface receptors, although other work suggests that this relates to the presence of mucus. Several groups are now assessing the use of gene transfer as a novel form of treatment for CF. We have examined whether P. aeruginosa binding to freshly obtained CF respiratory epithelial cells is increased, and have studied the effects of transfer of the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene on this attachment. Binding of P. aeruginosa to noncultured nasal epithelial cells from both CF patients (n = 31) and healthy controls (n = 15) was studied with scanning electron microscopy. Binding was also assessed for CF cells following transfection with CFTR/liposome complexes. Epifluorescence microscopy was used to assess the effects of gene transfer on chloride fluxes. Adherence of P. aeruginosa directly to the cell surface of CF airway epithelium was significantly (P < 0.001) increased over that in non-CF controls. Liposome-mediated CFTR gene transfer resulted in a significant (P < 0.01) reduction in the numbers of bacteria bound to ciliated epithelial cells. Fluorescence microscopy confirmed correction of the basic chloride defect. Thus, in CF, the absence of normal CFTR results in increased binding of P. aeruginosa to respiratory epithelial cells. This abnormality can be corrected in vitro by restoration of CFTR function. This has important implications both for the pathogenesis of CF and for the future application and assessment of gene therapy for this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology*
  • Chlorides / metabolism
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Liposomes / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / ultrastructure
  • Turbinates / cytology*
  • Turbinates / microbiology
  • Turbinates / ultrastructure


  • CFTR protein, human
  • Chlorides
  • Liposomes
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator