Corrector VX-809 stabilizes the first transmembrane domain of CFTR

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Abstract

Processing mutations that inhibit folding and trafficking of CFTR are the main cause of cystic fibrosis (CF). A potential CF therapy would be to repair CFTR processing mutants. It has been demonstrated that processing mutants of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), CFTR's sister protein, can be efficiently repaired by a drug-rescue mechanism. Many arginine suppressors that mimic drug-rescue have been identified in the P-gp transmembrane (TM) domains (TMDs) that rescue by forming hydrogen bonds with residues in adjacent helices to promote packing of the TM segments. To test if CFTR mutants could be repaired by a drug-rescue mechanism, we used truncation mutants to test if corrector VX-809 interacted with the TMDs. VX-809 was selected for study because it is specific for CFTR, it is the most effective corrector identified to date, but it has limited clinical benefit. Identification of the VX-809 target domain will help to develop correctors with improved clinical benefits. It was found that VX-809 rescued truncation mutants lacking the NBD2 and R domains. When the remaining domains (TMD1, NBD1, TMD2) were expressed as separate polypeptides, VX-809 only increased the stability of TMD1. We then performed arginine mutagenesis on TM6 in TMD1. Although the results showed that TM6 had distinct lipid and aqueous faces, CFTR was different from P-gp as no arginine promoted maturation of CFTR processing mutants. The results suggest that TMD1 contains a VX-809 binding site, but its mechanism differed from P-gp drug-rescue. We also report that V510D acts as a universal suppressor to rescue CFTR processing mutants.

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