Many cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)-expressing epithelia secrete bicarbonate (HCO3-)-containing fluids. Recent evidence suggests that defects in epithelial bicarbonate secretion are directly involved in the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis, in particular by building up hyperviscous mucus in the ductal structures of the lung and pancreas. Pancreatic juice is one of the representative fluids that contain a very high concentration of bicarbonate among bodily fluids that are secreted from CFTR-expressing epithelia. We introduce up-to-date knowledge on the basic principles of transepithelial bicarbonate transport by showing the mechanisms involved in pancreatic bicarbonate secretion. The model of pancreatic bicarbonate secretion described herein may also apply to other exocrine epithelia. As a central regulator of bicarbonate transport at the apical membrane, CFTR plays an essential role in both direct and indirect bicarbonate secretion. The major role of CFTR in bicarbonate secretion would be variable depending on the tissue and cell type. For example, in epithelial cells that produce a low concentration of bicarbonate-containing fluid (up to 80 mM), either CFTR-dependent Cl-/HCO3- exchange or CFTR anion channel with low bicarbonate permeability would be sufficient to generate such fluid. However, in cells that secrete high-bicarbonate-containing fluids, a highly selective CFTR bicarbonate channel activity is required. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanism of transepithelial bicarbonate transport and the role of CFTR in each specific epithelium will provide therapeutic strategies to recover from epithelial defects induced by hyposecretion of bicarbonate in cystic fibrosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)