Paracellular transport through healthy and cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial cell lines - Do we have a proper model?

Natalia Molenda, Katarina Urbanova, Nelly Weiser, Kristina Kusche-Vihrog, Dorothee Gun̈zel, Hermann Schillers

18 Citations (Scopus)


It has been reported recently that the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) besides transcellular chloride transport, also controls the paracellular permeability of bronchial epithelium. The aim of this study was to test whether overexpressing wtCFTR solely regulates paracellular permeability of cell monolayers. To answer this question we used a CFBE41o - cell line transfected with wtCFTR or mutant F508del-CFTR and compered them with parental line and healthy 16HBE14o- cells. Transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) and paracellular fluorescein flux were measured under control and CFTR-stimulating conditions. CFTR stimulation significant decreased TER in 16HBE14o- and also in CFBE41o - cells transfected with wtCFTR. In contrast, TER increased upon stimulation in CFBE41o- cells and CFBE41o- cells transfected with F508del-CFTR. Under non-stimulated conditions, all four cell lines had similar paracellular fluorescein flux. Stimulation increased only the paracellular permeability of the 16HBE14o- cell monolayers. We observed that 16HBE14o- cells were significantly smaller and showed a different structure of cell-cell contacts than CFBE41o- and its overexpressing clones. Consequently, 16HBE14o- cells have about 80% more cell-cell contacts through which electrical current and solutes can leak. Also tight junction protein composition is different in 'healthy' 16HBE14o - cells compared to 'cystic fibrosis' CFBE41o- cells. We found that claudin-3 expression was considerably stronger in 16HBE14o - cells than in the three CFBE41o- cell clones and thus independent of the presence of functional CFTR. Together, CFBE41o- cell line transfection with wtCFTR modifies transcellular conductance, but not the paracellular permeability. We conclude that CFTR overexpression is not sufficient to fully reconstitute transport in CF bronchial epithelium. Hence, it is not recommended to use those cell lines to study CFTR-dependent epithelial transport.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere100621
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19.06.2014

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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