CFTR potentiators: from bench to bedside
One major breakthrough in cystic fibrosis research in the past decade is the development of drugs that target the root cause of the disease — dysfunctional CFTR protein. One of the compounds, Ivacaftor or Kalydeco, which has been approved for clinical use since 2012, acts by promoting the gating function of CFTR. Our recent studies have led to a gating model that features energetic coupling between nucleotide-binding domain (NBD) dimerization and gate opening/closing in CFTR's transmembrane domains (TMDs). Based on this model, we showed that ATP analogs can enhance CFTR gating by facilitating NBD dimerization, whereas Ivacaftor works by stabilizing the open channel conformation of the TMDs. This latter idea also explains the near omnipotence of Ivacaftor. Furthermore, this model identifies multiple approaches to synergistically boost the open probability of CFTR by influencing distinct molecular events that control gating conformational changes.