The most common mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene in individuals with cystic fibrosis, ΔF508, causes retention of ΔF508-CFTR in the endoplasmic reticulum and leads to the absence of CFTR Cl- channels in the apical plasma membrane. Rescue of ΔF508-CFTR by reduced temperature or chemical means reveals that the ΔF508 mutation reduces the half-life of ΔF508-CFTR in the apical plasma membrane. Because ΔF508-CFTR retains some Cl- channel activity, increased expression of ΔF508-CFTR in the apical membrane could serve as a potential therapeutic approach for cystic fibrosis. However, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for the short apical membrane half-life of ΔF508-CFTR in polarized human airway epithelial cells. Accordingly, the goal of this study was to determine the cellular defects in the trafficking of rescued ΔF508-CFTR that lead to the decreased apical membrane half-life of ΔF508-CFTR in polarized human airway epithelial cells. We report that in polarized human airway epithelial cells (CFBE41o-) the ΔF508 mutation increased endocytosis of CFTR from the apical membrane without causing a global endocytic defect or affecting the endocytic recycling of CFTR in the Rab11a-specific apical recycling compartment.
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