Pharmacological rescue of the mutant cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) detected by use of a novel fluorescence platform.
Numerous human diseases arise because of defects in protein folding, leading to their degradation in the endoplasmic reticulum. Among them is cystic fibrosis (CF), caused by mutations in the gene encoding the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR ), an epithelial anion channel. The most common mutation, F508del, disrupts CFTR folding, which blocks its trafficking to the plasma membrane. We developed a fluorescence detection platform using fluorogen-activating proteins (FAPs) to directly detect FAP-CFTR trafficking to the cell surface using a cell-impermeant probe. By using this approach, we determined the efficacy of new corrector compounds, both alone and in combination, to rescue F508del-CFTR to the plasma membrane. Combinations of correctors produced additive or synergistic effects, improving the density of mutant CFTR at the cell surface up to ninefold over a single-compound treatment. The results correlated closely with assays of stimulated anion transport performed in polarized human bronchial epithelia that endogenously express F508del-CFTR. These findings indicate that the FAP-tagged constructs faithfully report mutant CFTR correction activity and that this approach should be useful as a screening assay in diseases that impair protein trafficking to the cell surface.