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Keywords:

  • airway epithelium;
  • chloride transport;
  • cystic fibrosis;
  • N-acetylcysteine

Defective chloride transport in epithelial cells increases mucus viscosity and leads to recurrent infections with high oxidative stress in patients with CF (cystic fibrosis). NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is a well known mucolytic and antioxidant drug, and an indirect precursor of glutathione. Since GSNO (S-nitrosoglutathione) previously has been shown to be able to promote Cl efflux from CF airway epithelial cells, it was investigated whether NAC also could stimulate Cl efflux from CF and non-CF epithelial cells and through which mechanisms. CFBE (CF bronchial epithelial cells) and normal bronchial epithelial cells (16HBE) were treated with 1 mM, 5 mM, 10 mM or 15 mM NAC for 4 h at 37°C. The effect of NAC on Cl transport was measured by Cl efflux measurements and by X-ray microanalysis. Cl efflux from CFBE cells was stimulated by NAC in a dose-dependent manner, with 10 mM NAC causing a significant increase in Cl efflux with nearly 80% in CFBE cells. The intracellular Cl concentration in CFBE cells was significantly decreased up to 60% after 4 h treatment with 10 mM NAC. Moreover immunocytochemistry and Western blot experiments revealed expression of CFTR channel on CFBE cells after treatment with 10 mM NAC. The stimulation of Cl efflux by NAC in CF airway epithelial cells may improve hydration of the mucus and thereby be beneficial for CF patients.