The mutated protein F508del–cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) failed to traffic properly as a result of its retention in the endoplasmic reticulum and functions as a chloride (Cl−) channel with abnormal gating and endocytosis. Small chemicals (called correctors) individually restore F508del-CFTR trafficking and Cl− transport function, but recent findings indicate that synergistic pharmacology should be considered to address CFTR defects more clearly. We studied the function and maturation of F508del-CFTR expressed in HeLa cells using a combination of five correctors [miglustat, IsoLAB (1,4-dideoxy-2-hydroxymethyl-1,4-imino-l-threitol), Corr4a (N-[2-(5-chloro-2-methoxy-phenylamino)-4′-methyl-[4,5′]bithiazolyl-2′-yl]-benzamide), VX-809 [3-(6-(1-(2,2-difluorobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)cyclopropanecarboxamido)-3-methylpyridin-2-yl)benzoic acid], and suberoylamilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA)]. Using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique, the current density recorded in response to CFTR activators (forskolin + genistein) was significantly increased in the presence of the following combinations: VX-809 + IsoLAB; VX-809 + miglustat + SAHA; VX-809 + miglustat + IsoLAB; VX-809 + IsoLAB + SAHA; VX-809 + miglustat + IsoLAB + SAHA. These combinations restored the activity of F508del-CFTR but with a differential effect on the appearance of mature c-band of F508del-CFTR proteins. Focusing on the VX-809 + IsoLAB cocktail, we recorded a level of correction higher at 37°C versus room temperature, but without amelioration of the thermal instability of CFTR. The level of functional rescue with VX-809 + IsoLAB after 4 hours of incubation was maximal and similar to that obtained in optimal conditions of use for each compound (i.e., 24 hours for VX-809 + 4 hours for IsoLAB). Finally, we compared the stimulation of F508del-CFTR by forskolin or forskolin + VX-770 [N-(2,4-di-tert-butyl-5-hydroxyphenyl)-4-oxo-1,4-dihydroquinoline-3-carboxamide] with cells corrected by VX-809 + IsoLAB. Our results open new perspectives for the development of a synergistic polypharmacology to rescue F508del-CFTR and show the importance of temperature on the effect of correctors and on the level of correction, suggesting that optimized combination of correctors could lead to a better rescue of F508del-CFTR function.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) [Mendelian Inheritance in Man (MIM) no. 219700] is an autosomal-recessive, lethal disorder that results from mutations introduced in the gene encoding the multifunctional cAMP-dependent chloride ion channel CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), ATP-binding cassette subfamily C, member 7. Physiologically, CFTR controls salt and fluid transport in response to cAMP-dependent agonists across the apical membrane of most epithelial tissues, including the airway epithelia (Riordan, 1993). In CF patients, this function is greatly reduced or absent. For these individuals, the consequences are severe, in particular in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, where viscous secretions favor the development of inflammatory injury (Flume et al., 2010).
More than 1900 different mutations in the CFTR gene (MIM no. 602421) have been identified in CF patients worldwide. These mutations are divided into six classes according to their degree of severity in CF disease and the mechanism that disrupts CFTR function (Welsh and Smith., 1993; Haardt et al., 1999). About 90% of people with CF have at least one copy of the F508del mutation, and more than 70% are homozygous for it. This deletion leads to a CFTR misfolding that induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention (Cheng et al., 1990), and exported mutated proteins suffer from abnormal plasma membrane trafficking, endocytosis, and gating. The half-life of F508del-CFTR proteins in the plasma membrane is also shorter than that of wild-type (WT) CFTR (Haardt et al., 1999; Heda et al., 2001), and the open probability of the channel is reduced as the result of an increase in the closed time over that of the WT channel (Dalemans et al., 1991; Wang et al., 2000). Thermal inactivation or instability of the mutant F508del-CFTR at 37°C was recently noted in mammalian cells (Wang et al., 2011; He et al., 2013) and Xenopus oocytes (Liu et al., 2012) (i.e., F508del-CFTR channel activity inactivated rapidly at physiologic temperature).
A number of therapeutic discovery and development efforts are under way to develop such drugs, named CFTR correctors. These efforts have been encouraged by the fact that F508del-CFTR protein retains some functionality as a Cl− channel at the plasma membrane of epithelial cells (Dalemans et al., 1991; Denning et al., 1992). However, several lines of evidence also indicate that it might not be possible to reverse fully the F508del-CFTR trafficking defect by using only a single compound. Recent findings suggest that a combination of a corrector and a potentiator of CFTR would have better efficacy than a corrector alone; these findings are progressively advancing toward a polypharmacology to address the CFTR defects, in particular, defective trafficking and gating (Okiyoneda et al., 2013).
It is important to note that all the small chemical compounds identified so far individually increase the amount of functional proteins at the plasma membrane but only partially repair the trafficking defect of F508del-CFTR (Zeitlin, 2000; Becq, 2010). Some of them may work as pharmacologic chaperones by direct binding to F508del-CFTR, which favors its folding and maturation. Alternatively, correctors may also act as proteostasis regulators by modifying the cell proteome to ameliorate the maturation of F508del-CFTR (Wang et al., 2000; Mu et al., 2008; Hutt et al., 2010). Because none of these correctors, used alone, can correct fully the F508del-CFTR abnormal trafficking, the present study was conducted to explore the hypothesis that a combination of different correctors could be more efficacious than a single corrector. Among these chemical compounds, we focused our attention on correctors with a different mechanism of action: the proteostasis regulators suberoylamilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) (Hutt et al., 2010), miglustat (Norez et al., 2006), and IsoLAB (1,4-dideoxy-2-hydroxymethyl-1,4-imino-l-threitol) (Ardes-Guisot et al., 2011; Best et al., 2011), in addition to VX-809 [3-(6-(1-(2,2-difluorobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)cyclopropanecarboxamido)-3-methylpyridin-2-yl)benzoic acid] (Van Goor et al., 2011; Loo et al., 2013) and Corr4a (N-[2-(5-chloro-2-methoxy-phenylamino)-4′-methyl-[4,5′]bithiazolyl-2′-yl]-benzamide) (Pedemonte et al., 2005), proposed to interact directly with CFTR. We also discuss the different classes of CFTR correctors based on their molecular mechanism of action.
Materials and Methods
HeLa cells expressing wild-type CFTR (spTCF-WT) or F508del-CFTR (spTCF-ΔF) were cultured in Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium + GlutaMAX-I (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) supplemented with 8% (v/v) fetal bovine serum, 1% (v/v) penicillin/streptomycin, and were selected using Zeocin (50 µg/ml) (Invitrogen/Life Technologies, Cergy Pontoise Cedex, France). Both cell lines were grown in standard culture conditions (37°C, 5% CO2). Cells were plated in 35-mm plastic dishes for whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and Western blot analysis and in 96-well plates for cytotoxicity assay. For all cell cultures, culture media were renewed every 2 days.
Western Blot Analysis.
Cell lysates (10 mM Tris, 1% Nonidet P-40, 0.5% sodium deoxycholate, pH 7.5) were separated 72 hours after seeding for HeLa cells by 5% SDS-PAGE (50 μg of protein/well). After saturation, nitrocellulose membranes were incubated overnight at 4°C in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), 0.1% Tween 20 with 1 μg/ml mouse anti-CFTR monoclonal antibody (clone MAB3480; Chemicon International, Millipore Bioscience Research Reagents, Temecula, CA). After washing, goat peroxidase–conjugated anti-mouse IgG (1:10,000; Sigma-Aldrich) was used as secondary antibody. CFTR was visualized by chemiluminescence with enhanced chemiluminescence Western blotting detection reagent (GE Healthcare, Buckinghamshire, UK).
Cell Viability Assay.
The cell viability of HeLa-F508del-CFTR cells exposed to different concentrations of compounds was evaluated using the mitochondrial-dependent reduction of MTT [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide; Sigma-Aldrich] colorimetric assay, as described elsewhere (Routaboul et al., 2007). Cells were incubated at 37°C with the test compound at the concentration and time of incubation previously defined. At the end of incubation, media were removed and cells were washed with PBS before a 4-hour-long incubation at 37°C with 100 μl of MTT solution (0.5 mg/ml in PBS). After incubation, the supernatant was removed, the purple formazan crystals were dissolved in 100 μl dimethylsulfoxide (Sigma-Aldrich), and the optical density was measured in a microplate reader (SpectraCount microplate photometer; Packard, Meriden, CT). Values are the mean of three replicates and are expressed as percentage of the control values.
Electrophysiologic Studies Using the Whole-Cell Patch-Clamp Technique.
Ionic currents were recorded using the patch-ruptured whole-cell variant of the patch-clamp technique and measured using an Axopatch 200B amplifier (Molecular Devices, Union City, CA). Currents were filtered at 5 kHz (−3 dayB; four-pole Bessel filter). The holding potential was −40 mV in all whole-cell experiments. Current/voltage (I/V) relationships were built by clamping the membrane potential to −40 mV and by pulses from −100 to +100 mV in 20 mV increments. Histograms of current densities in response to activation were obtained by summarizing the maximal value of current density reached during the time course of activation. For time-course experiments, current amplitude measured at +40 mV was plotted each 10 seconds. Pipettes were prepared by pulling borosilicate glass capillary tubes (GC150-T10; Harvard Apparatus, Edenbridge, UK) using a two-step vertical puller (Narishige, Tokyo, Japan). They were filled with the following solution (in mM): 120 NMDG, 86 l-aspartic acid, 3 MgCl2, 1 CsEGTA, 5 TES, and 3 MgATP ex temporane, (titrated with NaOH to pH 7.2, the osmolarity was 285 ± 5 mOsmol). The pipette solution was always hypotonic (with respect to the bath solution) to prevent cell swelling and activation of the volume-sensitive chloride channels. The stilbene derivative DIDS (4,4′-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid disodium salt hydrate) was also used to block non-CFTR Cl− conductance. Pipettes were connected to the head of the patch-clamp amplifier through an Ag–AgCl pellet (pipette resistance of 10–20 MΩ). The external bath solution contained (in mM): 140 NaCl, 1.2 CaCl2, 1 MgSO4, 10 dextrose, and 10 TES (titrated with NaOH to pH 7.4; the osmolarity was 315 ± 5 mOsmol). Pipette capacitance was electronically compensated in cell-attached mode. Membrane capacitance and series resistances were measured in the whole-cell mode by fitting capacitance currents obtained in response to a hyperpolarization of 40 mV with a first-order exponential and by integrating the surface of the capacitance current. Voltage-clamp signals were recorded via a microcomputer equipped with an analog/digital-digital/analog conversion board (Digidata 1440A interface; Molecular Devices). Experiments were performed either at room temperature (RT; 20–25°C) or at 37°C. For experiments at 37°C, from the seal formation to the end of experiment, the temperature in the cell bath was controlled through the external solution and maintained at 37°C using a designed homemade temperature controller connected on the stage of our inverted microscope. A thermoprobe positioned in the patch chamber was used to monitor the temperature. Drugs were applied by a gravity-fed perfusion system. All Cl− currents were analyzed with the pCLAMP version 10.2-package software (Molecular Devices).
Pharmacology, Chemicals, and Reagents.
The CFTR activator forskolin (noted F) and potentiator genistein (noted G) (Illek et al., 1995) were purchased from LC Laboratories (PKC Pharmaceuticals, Woburn, MA). The selective CFTR inhibitor CFTRinh-172 (Ma et al., 2002) was from Calbiochem (Nottingham, UK). We purchased DIDS and SAHA from Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis, MO), miglustat [(2R,3R,4R,5S)-1-butyl-2-(hydroxymethyl)piperidine-3,4,5-triol] from Toronto Research Chemicals (Toronto, ON, Canada), and VX-809 and VX-770 from Selleckchem (Houston, TX). Corr4a was provided by Dr. Robert Bridges from the Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago, IL) via the Chemical Compound Distribution Program of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Stock solutions of F (10 mM), G (30 mM), CFTRinh-172 (10 mM), VX-809 (10 mM), VX-770 (10 mM), SAHA (10 and 1 mM), and Corr4a (10 mM) were prepared in dimethylsulfoxide. We prepared stock solution of iminosugars, miglustat, and IsoLAB dissolved in water (100 mM) before further dilution.
Results are expressed as means ± S.E. of n observations. Statistical analysis was carried out using GraphPad Prism (GraphPad Software, La Jolla, CA) version 5.0 for Windows. To compare sets of data, we used one-way analysis of variance followed by Dunnett’s multiple-comparison test or Student’s t-test. Differences were considered statistically significant when P < 0.05.
In this section, until experiments investigating the effect of temperature and thermal instability on CFTR function, all patch-clamp experiments were performed at RT.
Individual and Combined Effects of Correctors on Cytotoxicity.
Before extensive analysis of the functional rescue of F508del-CFTR in presence of one, two, three, or four correctors, we first examined their individual and combined cytotoxicity by measuring cellular dehydrogenase activity using the water-soluble tetrazolium salt MTT, as described in Materials and Methods. We observed that 1) when used at concentrations and time of incubation known to rescue F508del-CFTR activity, miglustat (100 µM, 4 hours), IsoLAB (100 µM, 4 hours), or VX-809 (10 µM, 24 hours) did not affect cell viability, whereas Corr4a (10 µM, 24 hours) and SAHA (10 µM, 24 hours) showed clear cytotoxic effects with a reduced level of cell viability of around 25% (black bars in Fig. 1B); 2) the combination of either Corr4a or SAHA with one nontoxic compound or the combination of VX-809 + SAHA + Corr4a decreased dramatically cell viability (clear bars in Fig. 1B); and 3) the combination of two nontoxic correctors (miglustat 100 µM, IsoLAB 100 µM, or VX-809 10 µM) did not reveal any cell toxicity (clear bars in Fig. 1B). We also determined the concentration-response effect of these compounds on cell viability using higher concentrations (Fig. 1C). Other results also showed a cytotoxic effect of VX-809 at 300 µM (first gray bar in Fig. 1C), but not for IsoLAB or miglustat, at higher concentrations (300 µM) or when combined at 300 µM each (clear bars in Fig. 1C). At concentrations lower than 10 µM, SAHA appears less cytotoxic (see black bars in Fig. 1C), an observation that leads us to use SAHA at 1 µM. Based on these results, we focused our study on VX-809, SAHA (1 µM), miglustat, and IsoLAB.
Properties of F508del-CFTR Cl− Currents.
We explored the Cl− channel function using the whole-cell configuration of the patch-clamp technique. Voltage pulse protocols were applied in the basal condition or in the presence of the adenylate cyclase activator forskolin to stimulate the intracellular production of cAMP (used hereafter at a concentration of 10 µM) and with the CFTR potentiator genistein used at the final concentration of 30 µM (noted F + G for the cocktail). After adding F + G, we applied 10 µM of the selective CFTR inhibitor CFTRinh-172 to the bath at the end of all experimental sequences. A complete set of experiments was validated only when cells responded to the CFTR activators F + G by a linear increase in the Cl− current that was then inhibited by CFTRinh-172. To illustrate our results, exemplar traces and corresponding current density (pA/pF) versus voltage (mV) curves of the Cl− current are presented in Fig. 2. As expected, in basal condition, no spontaneous Cl− current was recorded in any of our cell models and experimental conditions (Fig. 2A, top traces noted basal). With cells expressing WT-CFTR channels, F + G elicited linear and CFTRinh-172 sensitive I–V plots (42.76 ± 2.76 pA/pF at +60 mV, n = 6, left traces as indicated Fig. 2, A and B). With cells expressing F508del-CFTR channels, no Cl− current over basal was recorded after perfusion of F + G (1.15 ± 0.41 pA/pF at + 60 mV, n = 6, second tracings from the left as indicated Fig. 2, A and B).
As a second control, before testing combinations of correctors, we confirmed that all correctors individually restored an F508del-CFTR Cl− current in our CF cells. A complete sequence showing example current traces of CFTR Cl− current in our experimental conditions is illustrated for each corrector (Fig. 2, A–C). The corresponding I/V curves presented as current density are provided in Fig. 2, B and C. Note that the level of WT-CFTR and F508del-CFTR activity is indicated as dotted lines in Fig. 2C to facilitate the reading and comparison. In the presence of IsoLAB or VX-809, the recorded F + G–stimulated Cl− current was significantly increased compared with the F508del-CFTR basal Cl− current, which, however, reached a level 1.5-fold lower than that for activated WT-CFTR (27.20 ± 5.25 pA/pF, n = 6 for IsoLAB and 25.32 ± 5.11 pA/pF, n = 5 for VX-809). In the presence of miglustat or SAHA, the corresponding F + G–stimulated F508del-CFTR Cl− current was 5-fold less than for the F + G–stimulated WT-CFTR Cl− current (9.90 ± 1.52 pA/pF, n = 8 for miglustat and 8.22 ± 2.85 pA/pF, n = 6 for SAHA). Finally, despite our unfavorable cytotoxicity results with Corr4a (Fig. 1), we recorded F508del-CFTR currents in cells incubated for 24 hours with 10 µM, as described (Pedemonte et al., 2005). We measured amplitude of 12.97 ± 5.47 pA/pF, but for only four of 14 cells tested (28%), an interesting observation since for all other individual correctors, we noticed a mean success rate of correction of 62.5% (25 of 40 cells were corrected).
During patch-clamp experiments, we defined the mean success rate of correction, which represents an arbitrary parameter calculated on the basis of maximal value of current density obtained during the time course after F508del-CFTR exposure to F + G. As indicated already, the mean value of F508del-CFTR response to activation was 1.15 ± 0.41 pA/pF. In regard to this value, we defined that all treated F508del-CFTR cells tested that elicited a value of current density greater than 4 pA/pF would be considered corrected cells. Cells eliciting current density lower than 4 pA/pF were considered noncorrected cells. Based on the total number of cells tested and on the value of recorded current density, we calculated the mean success rate of correction as the ratio of corrected cells/total cells tested.
Functional Analysis of F508del-CFTR Cl− Current after Treatment by Two Correctors.
The combination of two correctors always produced a significant increase in current elicited after exposure of F + G (Fig. 3A). Figure 3C summarizes the results of F + G–stimulated current density measured at +60 mV for all experimental conditions with one, two, three, or four correctors. Compared with the results obtained with one corrector, the combination of two correctors gave better correction of F508del-CFTR Cl− (Fig. 3C). It is also important to note that including VX-809 in the cocktail always produced better correction, with a 2-fold increase for VX-809 + IsoLAB (50.22 ± 6.80 pA/pF, n = 6) and a 1.5-fold increase for VX-809 + miglustat (39.04 ± 8.88 pA/pF, n = 6). The dotted line in Fig. 3C shows the level of mean value for the WT-CFTR current density. Even more important, we observed that the Cl− current density level obtained with these combinations was not significantly different compared with WT-CFTR. The combination of two correctors did not always rescue the F508del-CFTR Cl− current to the WT-CFTR level. Examples are given with SAHA + IsoLAB (29.21 ± 4.83 pA/pF, n = 6) or SAHA + miglustat (17.34 ± 4.00 pA/pF, n = 6). The less favorable additive effect was obtained with miglustat + SAHA or IsoLAB + SAHA, and the best combination was for IsoLAB + VX-809 (Fig. 3, A and C). The mean success rate of correction with two different correctors is 73.5% (36 of 49 cells were corrected).
Functional Analysis of F508del-CFTR Cl− Current Rescued by Three or Four Correctors.
Next, we combined three different correctors. Results are presented Fig. 3B. Adding VX-809 but not SAHA to the combination miglustat + IsoLAB further improved the level of functional rescue (Fig. 3B). This combination stimulates the F + G–dependent F508del-CFTR Cl− current at a level not significantly different from the WT response except for miglustat + IsoLAB + SAHA that is, on the contrary, reduced (20.52 ± 2.91 pA/pF, n = 5) (Fig. 3C). Therefore, compared with one corrector, combining three different correctors gave a level of functional correction of F508del-CFTR that was improved and not significantly different from that of WT-CFTR (i.e., with IsoLAB + miglustat + VX-809; IsoLAB + VX-809 + SAHA or miglustat + VX-809 + SAHA). Finally, when we combined all correctors together, the stimulated F + G–dependent F508del-CFTR Cl− current also reached a level not significantly different from the WT response. In other words, the F508del-CFTR response to F + G activation was maximal (57.66 ± 7.78 pA/pF, n = 6, traces Fig. 4A, mean values Fig. 4B).
To conclude this part of the study, these data show that using a combination of correctors, two (IsoLAB+VX-809), three (SAHA + miglustat + VX-809; miglustat + VX-809 + IsoLAB; SAHA + VX-809 + IsoLAB) or four, turns to be significantly more efficacious than using them individually. The mean success rate of correction with three different correctors is 82% (23 of 28 cells were corrected) and 75% (six of eight cells were corrected) with the cocktail of four correctors.
Effect of Varying the Duration of Incubation of IsoLAB and VX-809.
To determine whether the duration of incubation of F508del-CFTR cells with the correctors has an impact on the level of rescue, we performed time-dependence experiments in the presence of the most favorable cocktail of correctors selected from the preceding observations (i.e., IsoLAB + VX-809). We incubated HeLa F508del-CFTR cells with these molecules for either 4 or 24 hours and recorded the corresponding responses to F + G activation (Fig. 4). After a 4-hour-long incubation, the response to VX-809 (top left and middle traces Fig. 4A) was modest (18.47 ± 3.86 pA/pF; Fig. 4B) and below that recorded with IsoLAB (27.20 ± 5.25 pA/pF; Fig. 4B). However, combining both compounds for 4 hours (top right traces, Fig. 4A) induced an increased F508del-CFTR current density (43.83 ± 6.08 pA/pF; Fig. 4B). After 24 hours of incubation (middle traces; Fig. 4A), the level of activation in presence of IsoLAB decreased compared with 4 hours of treatment (27.20 ± 5.25 pA/pF at 4 hours compared with 4.64 ± 3.23 pA/pF after 24 hours of incubation), whereas the effect of VX-809 is maximum after 24 hours (25.32 ± 5.11 pA/pF; Fig. 4B). Again, with both drugs incubated for 24 hours, the resulting F508del-CFTR current was significantly increased (30.83 ± 6.53 pA/pF; Fig. 4B). Therefore, varying the duration of incubation of each drug of the mixture IsoLAB + VX-809 produced different results. We observed two situations with similar and maximum responses (i.e., not significantly different from the WT-CFTR level taken as reference): 4-hour-long incubation of either drug or 4 hours of IsoLAB + 24 hours of VX-809.
Effect of the CFTR Potentiator VX-770 on F508del-CFTR Rescued by IsoLAB and VX-809.
VX-770 (ivacaftor) is the active compound of Kalydeco (Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Boston, MA), the first medication prescribed to CF patients who carry at least one copy of the class III mutation G551D (Ramsey et al., 2011). In the following experiments, we used IsoLAB or VX-809 alone or their combination IsoLAB (4 hours) + VX-809 (24 hours) to compare the stimulation of F508del-CFTR with the potentiator VX-770 (acute application at 10 µM) (Van Goor et al., 2009). Thus, we recapitulated some experiments using F508del-CFTR–expressing cells incubated with the correctors. We stimulated the CFTR Cl− current by forskolin ± VX-770. Results are presented in Fig. 5 with, for each condition, example Cl− current traces in A and current density versus voltage in B. The level of F508del-CFTR Cl− current after IsoLAB or VX-809 treatment was significantly stimulated by F + VX-770, above the level recorded with forskolin alone (Fig. 5A). For cells incubated with the cocktail IsoLAB + VX-809, the best functional response was also recorded with F + VX-770. Of note, the response to forskolin alone is already significantly above the level reached with forskolin and either or the two correctors used individually (Fig. 5A).
Effect of Temperature and Thermal Instability of F508del-CFTR Chloride Currents in the Presence of Correctors.
In the following experiments, we investigated the effect of temperature on the activity of F508del-CFTR. Thermal inactivation or instability of the mutant F508del at 37°C was recently shown in mammalian cells (Wang et al., 2011; He et al., 2013) and Xenopus oocytes (Liu et al., 2012). We measured the stability of WT-CFTR and corrected-F508del chloride currents using whole-cell, patch-clamp technique and compared the effect of various correctors at 37°C. The current density of CFTR currents was quantified with cells continuously maintained at 37°C during the complete recording of the whole-cell CFTR chloride currents at +40 mV (from seal formation to the end of experiment). After seal formation and cell opening, cells were continuously exposed to F + G for 20 minutes of time recording. For each condition, the time of latency observed before increase of current density (1 or 2 minutes) represents the lapse of time for F + G distribution in the whole-patch chamber. With WT-CFTR, the current density remained stable for several minutes (about 14–16 minutes) at the maximum level after adding forskolin and genistein and before decreasing slowly (rundown) without the application of any inhibitor (Fig. 6A). On the contrary, with F508del-CFTR cells corrected by 24-hour long-term incubation at 27°C (noted low temperature–corrected cells), the current density declined rapidly within 6–8 minutes after maximal stimulation by forskolin and genistein (Fig. 6B). In the presence of either VX-809 (filled squares) or IsoLAB (black triangles), the stimulated F508del-CFTR current declined even more rapidly than for temperature-corrected cells (i.e., within 2 or 3 minutes (Fig. 6C). Lastly, when F508del-CFTR cells were incubated with VX-809 + IsoLAB, the stimulated F508del-CFTR current was increased (empty squares, Fig. 6C) compared with VX-809 or IsoLAB separately. However, the current density still declined more rapidly than for temperature-corrected cells, although slower than with each individual correctors (i.e., in 4–6 minutes, the current density vanished) (Fig. 6C).
In a second set of experiments, we compared the level of current density corresponding to the maximal level of activation reached during time course of activation of WT-CFTR and F508del-CFTR treated with VX-809, IsoLAB, or VX-809 + IsoLAB recorded at RT or at 37°C (Fig. 6D). The activity of WT-CFTR was significantly increased at 37°C versus RT (Fig. 6D). The activity of F508del-CFTR was also increased at 37°C versus RT but only for VX-809 + IsoLAB (Fig. 6D). Surprisingly, the levels of current densities of F508del-CFTR corrected either with VX-809 or IsoLAB were similar at 37°C and RT (Fig. 6D).
Increased Mature c-Band F508del-CFTR in Cells Treated by Multiple Correctors.
Finally, the results of these several experiments told indicated that a combination of at least two different chemicals could improve the functional correction of F508del-CFTR Cl− current. Our next question was whether this increased current intensity directly correlated to the CFTR maturation profile. WT core-glycosylated immature CFTR (referred as b-band CFTR) in the ER leaves this compartment to reach the Golgi and then the plasma membrane after the addition of complex carbohydrates. This process allows CFTR proteins to become mature and fully glycosylated (referred to as c-band CFTR). On the contrary, F508del-CFTR remains trapped in the ER as b-band CFTR. We thus performed a series of Western blot experiments mimicking all the experimental conditions related herein to monitor the c-band appearance. Immunoblots are presented Fig. 7A, and quantification from multiple experiments is shown in Fig. 7B. We used WT-CFTR (lanes 1 and 7) and untreated F508del-CFTR (lanes 2 and 8) as controls (Fig. 7A). We observed increased mature, fully glycosylated c-band F508del-CFTR in the presence of VX-809 (lanes 3 and 9, Fig. 7B) and to a lesser extent with IsoLAB (lane 4, Fig. 7B), miglustat (lane 6, Fig. 7B), but not with SAHA (lane 5 and Fig. 7B). Importantly, all combinations of correctors showed increased mature c-band F508del-CFTR (lanes 10–15, Fig. 7B) compared with untreated cells (lane 8, Fig. 7B), with differences, however, depending on the combination. With the combination VX-809 + SAHA, the c-band level is reduced compared with VX-809 alone or the combination IsoLAB + VX-809 (Fig. 7B). With VX-809 + miglustat + IsoLAB, no further increase in c-band level was noticed with the combination of four correctors. We also observed that adding SAHA to any condition always diminished the c-band level. Therefore, with the combination of correctors IsoLAB + VX-809 having the best level of functional correction of F508del-CFTR, we measured increased mature c-band of F508del-CFTR proteins compared with untreated condition.
The continuous discovery of novel drugs for CF, especially of molecules targeting directly the CFTR protein (named CFTR binders) or targeting proteostasis actors (named proteostasis modulators), is beginning to shape the therapeutic landscape for this genetic disease. Considering the most common CF mutation, F508del-CFTR, step-by-step, the biosynthetic pathway is being discovered and begins to explain the mistrafficking of the protein and its ER retention (Cheng et al., 1990; Ward et al., 1995). Importantly, gating of the channel is affected as the result of an abnormal closing time of the channel longer than for the WT-CFTR channel (Dalemans et al., 1991; Haws et al., 1996; Wang et al., 2000). The abnormal endocytosis of F508del-CFTR completes the panel of consequences of the F508 deletion (Heda et al., 2001; Jouret et al., 2007), together with the accumulating evidence of multiple CFTR-associated deregulation of ionic homeostasis, especially Na+ and Ca2 (Quinton, 1990; Welsh, 1990; Antigny et al., 2008).
Initially, small chemicals (called correctors) were identified and developed for their capacity to restore F508del-CFTR trafficking and chloride transport function individually, but recent findings speak for taking into account polypharmacology to address CFTR defects more completely (Pedemonte and Galietta, 2012; Okiyoneda et al., 2013). However, treatment-combination studies proposing two pharmacologic drugs are still rare. Only the recent discovery and marketing of Kalydeco, the first medication prescribed to CF patients who carry at least one copy of the class III mutation G551D (Ramsey et al., 2011), allow testing the hypothesis of drug combination. Here we focused our attention on the combination of two or more correctors acting either on CFTR directly (VX-809, Corr4a) or on the proteostasis pathway (iminosugars, HDAC inhibitors). Our results show that the transport function of CFTR was significantly increased in presence of the following corrector combinations: VX-809 + IsoLAB; VX-809 + miglustat + SAHA; VX-809 + miglustat + IsoLAB; VX-809 + IsoLAB + SAHA; VX-809 + miglustat + IsoLAB + SAHA compared with the same correctors tested individually. Our results also show that these combinations restored the processing of F508del-CFTR with differential appearance of mature c-band of F508del-CFTR proteins. The best level of functional correction and increased mature c-band of F508del-CFTR proteins was observed with IsoLAB + VX-809. Whereas any combinations of correctors showed increased mature c-band F508del-CFTR compared with our controls, we nevertheless observed differences depending on the combination. Clearly, SAHA affects the level of maturation, possibly but not exclusively linked to its cytotoxicity effects. Between the two noncytotoxic iminosugars, miglustat and IsoLAB, better results, function, and maturation were obtained with the second one. We also observed increasing success rates of corrections between a single corrector and combination from 62.5 up to 82%. One possible explanation would be the synergy of different mechanism of action to rescue more functional F508del-CFTR proteins to the plasma membrane.
CF pharmacotherapy was officially born a year ago with the marketing of Kalydeco, but undoubtedly the best is yet to come when correctors are efficient enough in the clinic for CF patients with at least one copy of the class II CF mutation. Until now, one of the major obstacles for the development of a tailored F508del-CFTR corrector was the fact that small chemical compounds identified so far, although individually increasing the amount of functional proteins at the plasma membrane, only partially repair the trafficking defect of F508del-CFTR (Zeitlin, 2000; Becq, 2010; Hutt et al., 2010; Van Goor et al., 2011). Classification of F508del-CFTR correctors must thus be considered on the one hand with compounds directly binding F508del-CFTR and favoring its folding and maturation and on the other hand compounds acting not on F508del-CFTR itself but on enzymes and chaperones controlling its biosynthetic pathway in epithelial cells. Collectively, the former are called pharmacologic chaperones or CFTR binders, whereas the latter are called proteostasis modulators. We present a scheme to summarize this classification Fig. 8, according to which CFTR binders can be classified as class C1 (e.g., VX-809) stabilizing the nucleotide binding domain (NBD)1–intracellular loop 1 and NBD1–intracellular loop 4 interfaces (He et al., 2013) and class C2 (e.g., corr-4a) targeting NBD2 and/or its interface (Okiyoneda et al., 2013) (Fig. 8). Although the precise binding site for VX-809 on CFTR remains unknown, several lines of evidence suggest that it may bind at least to the first transmembrane domain of CFTR (Loo et al., 2013). Class C3 small molecules are binders to F508del-NBD1 like those recently discovered by Odolczyk and colleagues (Odolczyk et al., 2013). Based on molecular dynamics simulations, these researchers identified by structure-based virtual screening four in silico–selected compounds—NS118208, NS407882, NS130813, and NS73100—and show for the most efficient ones—NS118208 and NS407882—that they bind to F508del-NBD1 and inhibit interactions between F508del-CFTR and the housekeeping protein keratin 8 (Odolczyk et al., 2013). Furthermore, within this class C3, we included RDR1, a substituted phenylhydrazone compound that binds directly to F508del-NBD1 (Sampson et al., 2011). Class C4 F508del-CFTR correctors are proteostasis modulators, such as SAHA (Hutt et al., 2010), miglustat (Norez et al., 2006), IsoLAB (Ardes-Guisot et al., 2011; Best et al., 2011), PDE-5, 4-PBA, and others (reviewed in Becq, 2010) (Fig. 8). Our study indicates that an efficient combination to rescue F508del-CFTR from its ER retention would be to combine class C1 (such as VX-809) and class C4 (such as iminosugars and histone deacetylase [HDAC] inhibitors) correctors (Fig. 8).
A second result of our study concerns the thermal instability of the mutant F508del at 37°C that was recently demonstrated (Wang et al., 2011; Liu et al., 2012; He et al., 2013). Wang and collaborators first showed, for example, that low temperature–rescued F508del-CFTR irreversibly inactivated in experiments in which the temperature was raised from room temperature (typically 22°C) to physiologic value (36.5–37°C) with a time constant of 5 or 6 minutes (Wang et al., 2011). We obtained quite similar results, as shown Fig. 6, using comparable protocols. With the corrector VX-809, we also found that the corrected F508del-CFTR current remained unstable as also shown previously (He et al., 2013). Similarly, with the iminosugar IsoLAB, we failed to stabilize the F508del-CFTR current. However, a slower process was observed with the cocktail VX-809 + IsoLAB. Also, we compared the level of F508del-CFTR channel activity and found that with the cocktail of correctors, the level of current was strongly augmented at 37°C compared with at RT. Our results, however, also showed that despite the amelioration of the amplitude of corrected F508del-CFTR current at 37°C, the mutant remained thermally instable. This observation was probably expected since we used class C4 correctors (i.e., nonbinders to F508del). It might be predicted that stabilizing the conformation of F508del protein with corrector binders of classes C1–C3 could also stabilize the F508del-CFTR current toward near normal value. It remains, however, to be demonstrated that a C1–C3 binders would indeed reverse the thermal instability of F508del-CFTR.
In conclusion, given the wide possible variety of different drug combinations and the superiority of some drug combinations, such as VX-809 and IsoLAB, together with evidence that drug combinations are a reasonable option in CF treatment (for example, Kalydeco + VX-809), it might be important to conduct more combination studies and to include thermal stability experiments and comparison of the level of activation at RT versus that at 37°C. Nevertheless, our results open new perspectives for the development of a polypharmacology to rescue F508del-CFTR and suggest that optimized combination of correctors is a feasible option that could lead to a better (near wild-type level) functional rescue of F508del-CFTR.
The authors thank Caroline Norez and Isabelle Callebault for helpful discussion on the project.
Participated in research design: Boinot, Becq.
Conducted experiments: Boinot, Jollivet Souchet, Ferru-Clément.
Contributed new reagents or analytic tools: Becq.
Performed data analysis: Boinot, Jollivet Souchet, Ferru-Clément, Becq.
Wrote or contributed to the writing of the manuscript: Boinot, Becq.
- Received March 24, 2014.
- Accepted June 23, 2014.
This work was supported by grants from Vaincre La Mucoviscidose (Paris, France) and Université de Poitiers. C.B. was supported by a Ph.D. fellowship from Vaincre La Mucoviscidose. M.J.S. was supported by a donation from the charities “Mucovie” (Perpignan, France) and “Amandine contre la mucoviscidose” (Dijon, France).
- cystic fibrosis
- cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator
- 4,4′-diisothiocyanatostilbene-2,2′-disulfonic acid disodium salt hydrate
- endoplasmic reticulum
- histone deacetylase
- 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide
- nucleotide binding domain
- phosphate-buffered saline
- room temperature
- suberoylamilide hydroxamic acid
- 3-(6-(1-(2,2-difluorobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)cyclopropanecarboxamido)-3-methylpyridin-2-yl)benzoic acid
- Copyright © 2014 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics