Downregulation of epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) activity in human airway epithelia after low temperature incubation

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BMJ Open Respir Res. 2021 Feb;8(1):e000861. doi: 10.1136/bmjresp-2020-000861.


INTRODUCTION: The incubation of airway epithelia cells at low temperatures is a common in vitro experimental approach used in the field of cystic fibrosis (CF) research to thermo-stabilise F508del-CFTR and increase its functional expression. Given that the airway epithelium includes numerous ion transporters other than CFTR, we hypothesised that there was an impact of low temperature incubation on CFTR-independent ionoregulatory mechanisms in airway epithelia derived from individuals with and without CF.

METHODS: After differentiation at the air-liquid interface, nasal epithelia were incubated at either 37°C or 29°C (low temperature) for 48 hours prior to analysis in an Ussing chamber.

RESULTS: While F508del-CFTR activity was increased after low temperature incubation, activity of CFTR in non-CF epithelia was unchanged. Importantly, cultures incubated at 29°C demonstrated decreased transepithelial potential difference (TEPD) and short-circuit currents (Isc) at baseline. The predominant factor contributing to the reduced baseline TEPD and Isc in 29°C cultures was the reduced activity of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), evidenced by a reduced responsiveness to amiloride. This effect was observed in cells derived from both non-CF and CF donors.

DISCUSSION: Significant transcriptional downregulation of ENaC subunits β and γ were observed, which may partially explain the decreased ENaC activity. We speculate that low temperature incubation may be a useful experimental paradigm to reduce ENaC activity in in vitro epithelial cultures.

PMID:33622672 | DOI:10.1136/bmjresp-2020-000861