An apical-membrane chloride channel in human tracheal epithelium

Science  27 Jun 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4758, pp. 1648-1650
DOI: 10.1126/science.2424085


The mechanism of chloride transport by airway epithelia has been of substantial interest because airway and sweat gland-duct epithelia are chloride-impermeable in cystic fibrosis. The decreased chloride permeability prevents normal secretion by the airway epithelium, thereby interfering with mucociliary clearance and contributing to the morbidity and mortality of the disease. Because chloride secretion depends on and is regulated by chloride conductance in the apical cell membrane, the patch-clamp technique was used to directly examine single-channel currents in primary cultures of human tracheal epithelium. The cells contained an anion-selective channel that was not strongly voltage-gated or regulated by calcium in cell-free patches. The channel was also blocked by analogs of carboxylic acid that decrease apical chloride conductance in intact epithelia. When attached to the cell, the channel was activated by isoproterenol, although the channel was also observed to open spontaneously. However, in some cases, the channel was only observed after the patch was excised from the cell. These results suggest that this channel is responsible for the apical chloride conductance in airway epithelia.

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