New use for an old drug: COX-independent anti-inflammatory effects of sulindac in models of cystic fibrosis

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Pulmonary disease is the main cause of morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients due to exacerbated inflammation. To date, the only anti-inflammatory drug available to CF patients is high-dose ibuprofen, which can slow pulmonary disease progression, but whose cyclooxygenase-dependent digestive adverse effects limit its clinical use. Here we have tested sulindac, another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug with an undefined anti-inflammatory effect in CF airway epithelial cells.


Using in vitro and in vivo models, we NF-κB activity and IL-8 secretion. In HeLa-F508del cells, we performed luciferase reporter gene assays in order to measure i) IL-8 promoter activity, and ii) the activity of synthetic promoter containing NF-κB responsive elements. We quantified IL-8 secretion in airway epithelial CFBE cells cultured at an air-liquid interface and in a mouse model of CF.


Sulindac inhibited the transcriptional activity of NF-κB and decreased IL-8 transcription and secretion in TNF-α stimulated CF cells via a cyclooxygenase-independent mechanism. This effect was confirmed in vivo in a mouse model of CF induced by intra-tracheal instillation of LPS, with a significant decrease of the induction of mRNA for MIP-2, following treatment with sulindac.


Overall, sulindac decrease lung inflammation by a mechanism independent of cycolooxygenase. This drug could be beneficially employed in CF.

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